Mouse trophoblast giant cells undergo successive rounds of DNA replication resulting in amplification of the genome. It has been difficult to determine whether giant cell chromosomes are polyploid as in liver cells or polytene as in Dipteran salivary glands because the chromosomes do not condense. We have examined the pattern of hybridization of mouse giant cells with a variety of in situ chromosome markers to address this question. Hemizygous markers displayed one hybridization signal per nucleus in both diploid and giant cells, while homozygous markers displayed two signals per nucleus in both cell types. These patterns are consistent with cytological evidence indicating that giant cell chromosomes are polytene rather than polyploid. However, in contrast to the situation in Dipteran salivary glands, the two homologues do not appear to be closely associated. We conclude that the mechanism of giant cell DNA amplification involves multiple rounds of DNA replication in the absence of both karyokinesis and cytokinesis, and that sister chromatids, but not homologous chromosomes, remain closely associated during this process.

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