Indexed on: 24 Dec '15Published on: 24 Dec '15Published in: WormBook : the online review of C. elegans biology
Sexual reproduction requires the production of haploid gametes (sperm and egg) with only one copy of each chromosome; fertilization then restores the diploid chromosome content in the next generation. This reduction in genetic content is accomplished during a specialized cell division called meiosis, in which two rounds of chromosome segregation follow a single round of DNA replication. In preparation for the first meiotic division, homologous chromosomes pair and synapse, creating a context that promotes formation of crossover recombination events. These crossovers, in conjunction with sister chromatid cohesion, serve to connect the two homologs and facilitate their segregation to opposite poles during the first meiotic division. During the second meiotic division, which is similar to mitosis, sister chromatids separate; the resultant products are haploid cells that become gametes. In C. elegans (and most other eukaryotes) homologous pairing and recombination are required for proper chromosome inheritance during meiosis; accordingly, the events of meiosis are tightly coordinated to ensure the proper execution of these events. In this chapter, we review the seminal events of meiosis: pairing of homologous chromosomes; the changes in chromosome structure that chromosomes undergo during meiosis; the events of meiotic recombination; the differentiation of homologous chromosome pairs into structures optimized for proper chromosome segregation at Meiosis I; and the ultimate segregation of chromosomes during the meiotic divisions. We also review the regulatory processes that ensure the coordinated execution of these meiotic events during prophase I.