Evidence is accumulating that meiosis is subject to 'checkpoints' that monitor the quality of this complex process. In yeast, unresolved double strand breaks (DSBs) in DNA are thought to trigger a 'recombination checkpoint' that leads to pachytene arrest. In higher eukaryotes, there is evidence for a checkpoint that monitors chromosome synapsis and in mammals the most compelling evidence relates to the sex chromosomes. In normal male mice, there is synapsis between the X and Y pseudoautosomal regions; in XSxraO mice, with a single asynaptic sex chromosome, there is arrest at the first meiotic metaphase, the arrested cells being eliminated by apoptosis (our unpublished data). Satisfying the requirement for pseudoautosomal synapsis by providing a pairing partner for the XSxra chromosome avoids this arrest. We have considered that this 'synapsis checkpoint' may be a modification of the yeast 'recombination checkpoint', with unresolved DSBs (a corollary of asynapsis) providing the trigger for apoptosis. DSBs induced by irradiation are known to trigger apoptosis in a number of cell types via a p53-dependent pathway, and we now show that irradiation-induced spermatogonial apoptosis is also p53-dependent. In contrast, the apoptotic elimination of spermatocytes with synaptic errors proved to be p53- independent.
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