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A specific family of interspersed repeats (SINEs) facilitates meiotic synapsis in mammals

Matthew E Johnson1, Ross A Rowsey1, Sofia Shirley1, Catherine VandeVoort2, Jeffrey Bailey3 and Terry Hassold1*

Author Affiliations

1 Washington State University, School of Molecular Biosciences and Center for Reproductive Biology, Biotechnology-Life Science Building, 1715 NE Fairway Road, Pullman, WA 99164, USA

2 California National Primate Research Center, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA

3 University of Massachusetts Program in Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology and Division of Transfusion Medicine, 55 Lake Avenue N, Worcester, MA 01605, USA

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Molecular Cytogenetics 2013, 6:1  doi:10.1186/1755-8166-6-1

Published: 1 January 2013



Errors during meiosis that affect synapsis and recombination between homologous chromosomes contribute to aneuploidy and infertility in humans. Despite the clinical relevance of these defects, we know very little about the mechanisms by which homologous chromosomes interact with one another during mammalian meiotic prophase. Further, we remain ignorant of the way in which chromosomal DNA complexes with the meiosis-specific structure that tethers homologs, the synaptonemal complex (SC), and whether specific DNA elements are necessary for this interaction.


In the present study we utilized chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and DNA sequencing to demonstrate that the axial elements of the mammalian SC are markedly enriched for a specific family of interspersed repeats, short interspersed elements (SINEs). Further, we refine the role of the repeats to specific sub-families of SINEs, B1 in mouse and AluY in old world monkey (Macaca mulatta).


Because B1 and AluY elements are the most actively retrotransposing SINEs in mice and rhesus monkeys, respectively, our observations imply that they may serve a dual function in axial element binding; i.e., as the anchoring point for the SC but possibly also as a suppressor/regulator of retrotransposition.

Meiosis; Synaptonemal complex; Chromatin Immunoprecipitation (ChIP); SINE; Synapsis; SYCP3; Mouse; Macaque