Colchicine effects on meiosis in the male mouse. I. Meiotic prophase: synaptic arrest, univalents, loss of damaged spermatocytes and a possible checkpoint at pachytene

Chromosoma. 1997 Aug;106(3):183-92. doi: 10.1007/s004120050238.


Antimitotic agents administered at the time of synapsis (leptotene/zygotene) have been shown to induce synaptic abnormalities visible during pachytene in the male mouse. The object of this study was to test the hypothesis that cells with relatively large amounts of colchicine-induced damage to the synaptonemal complex (SC) are eliminated from prophase whereas cells with relatively small amounts of SC damage proceed through to the end of prophase. Male mice were injected with tritiated thymidine to mark a cohort of spermatocytes at premeiotic S-phase for tracking through pachytene. Forty-eight hours later, when those cells were at leptotene/zygotene, colchicine was administered intratesticularly. Whole-mount SC spreads were made from animals sacrificed at various times following colchicine administration, and prepared for autoradiography. The marked cells were examined by light and electron microscopy and the kind and number of synaptic abnormalities were scored throughout pachytene. Colchicine-induced SC damage included single axial elements (univalents), together with partially synapsed and nonhomologously synapsed SCs. The amount of SC damage (amount and type per cell and frequency of cells with damage) scored at early pachytene exceeded by three- to fivefold the amount at late pachytene. This is consistent with spermatogenic cell loss from the seminiferous tubule via colchicine-induced destruction of Sertoli cell microtubules. The presence of spermatocytes with no more than four autosomal univalents at late pachytene indicates that some cells with low amounts of synaptic damage progress to the end of pachytene. The loss of the most severely damaged cells may represent a meiotic checkpoint at early pachytene in the male mouse.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colchicine / administration & dosage
  • Colchicine / toxicity*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Male
  • Meiosis / drug effects*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Sertoli Cells / drug effects
  • Sertoli Cells / ultrastructure
  • Spermatocytes / drug effects*
  • Spermatocytes / ultrastructure*
  • Spermatogenesis / drug effects
  • Synaptonemal Complex / drug effects


  • Colchicine