Meiotic chromosome condensation is a unique process, characterized by dramatic changes in chromosome morphology that are required for the correct progression of pairing, synapsis, recombination and segregation of sister chromatids. We used an antibody that recognizes a ser 10 phosphoepitope on histone H3 to monitor H3 phosphorylation during meiosis in maize meiocytes. H3 phosphorylation has been reported to be an excellent marker for chromosome condensation during mitotic prophase in animal cells. In this study, we find that on maize mitotic chromosomes only pericentromeric regions are stained; there is little staining on the arms. During meiosis, chromosome condensation from leptotene through diplotene occurs in the absence of H3 phosphorylation. Instead, the changes in H3 phosphorylation at different stages of meiosis correlate with the differences in requirements for sister chromatid cohesion at different stages. Just before nuclear envelope breakdown, histone H3 phosphorylation is seen first in the pericentromeric regions and then extends through the arms at metaphase I; at metaphase II only the pericentromeric regions are stained. In afd1 (absence of first division), a mutant that is defective in many aspects of meiosis including sister chromatid cohesion and has equational separation at metaphase I, staining is restricted to the pericentromeric regions during metaphase I and anaphase I; there is no staining at metaphase II or anaphase II. We conclude that changes in the level of phosphorylation of ser10 in H3 correspond to changes in the cohesion of sister chromatids rather than the extent of chromosome condensation at different stages of meiosis.

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