Accurate segregation of homologous chromosomes during meiosis depends on their ability to remain physically connected throughout prophase I. For homologs that achieve a crossover, sister chromatid cohesion distal to the chiasma keeps them attached until anaphase I. However, in Drosophila melanogaster wild-type oocytes, chromosome 4 never recombines, and the X chromosome fails to cross over in 6–10% of oocytes. Proper segregation of these achiasmate homologs relies on their pericentric heterochromatin-mediated association, but the mechanism(s) underlying this attachment remains poorly understood. Using an inducible RNA interference (RNAi) strategy combined with fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) to monitor centromere proximal association of the achiasmate FM7a/X homolog pair, we asked whether specific heterochromatin-associated proteins are required for the association and proper segregation of achiasmate homologs in Drosophila oocytes. When we knock down HP1a, H3K9 methytransferases, or the HP1a binding partner Piwi during mid-prophase, we observe significant disruption of pericentric heterochromatin-mediated association of FM7a/X homologs. Furthermore, for both HP1a and Piwi knockdown oocytes, transgenic coexpression of the corresponding wild-type protein is able to rescue RNAi-induced defects, but expression of a mutant protein with a single amino acid change that disrupts the HP1a-Piwi interaction is unable to do so. We show that Piwi is stably bound to numerous sites along the meiotic chromosomes, including centromere proximal regions. In addition, reduction of HP1a or Piwi during meiotic prophase induces a significant increase in FM7a/X segregation errors. We present a speculative model outlining how HP1a and Piwi could collaborate to keep achiasmate chromosomes associated in a homology-dependent manner.
- Received December 22, 2015.
- Accepted March 11, 2016.
- Copyright © 2016 by the Genetics Society of America