The pericentromeric heterochromatin of meiotic trivalents formed by the Robertsonian (Rb) chromosomes and the two homologous acrocentrics in the house mouse was evaluated by static cytophotometry after selective staining. To reveal pericentromeric heterochromatin specifically, C-banding Giemsa and Hoechst 33258 stains were utilized. Five different Rb chromosomes were investigated and none of them possessed less pericentromeric heterochromatin than the sum of the two homologous acrocentrics. Moreover the total A-T (DAPI) and DNA (PI) content was quantitatively evaluated, by flow cytometry, in G0/G1 nuclei belonging to four different Rb mouse populations, karyotypically characterized by the presence of up to nine Rb chromosomes. Again there were no significant difference, of DAPI and PI content, in the Rb populations nor between any of them and the NMRI/HAN strain with forty aerocentric chromosomes. We conclude that the main consequence of Robertsonian processes (i.e. the rapid variation of the karyotype structure) does not imply detectable quantitative variation in the genome portion involved in the Rb process. We also discuss the possibility that the high rate of Rb exchange in the house mouse could be favoured by the simultaneous effects of undetectable losses of chromosomal material, high repetitiveness of the DNA involved, the presence of the same major type of satellite DNA over each chromosome and the all acrocentric constitution of the karyotype.
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