Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Polycomb group (PcG) proteins prevent the assembly of abnormal synaptonemal complex structures during meiosis
Tália Feijão, Bruno Marques, Rui D. Silva, Célia Carvalho, Daniel Sobral, Ricardo Matos, Tian Tan, António Pereira, Eurico Morais-de-Sá, Hélder Maiato, Steven Z. DeLuca, Rui Gonçalo Martinho
Meiosis, transcription, Polycomb group proteins, Synaptonemal complex, Drosophila
The synaptonemal complex (SC) is a proteinaceous scaffold that is assembled between paired homologous chromosomes during the onset of meiosis. Timely expression of SC coding genes is essential for SC assembly and successful meiosis. However, SC components have an intrinsic tendency to self-organize into abnormal repetitive structures, which are not assembled between the paired homologs and whose formation is potentially deleterious for meiosis and gametogenesis. This creates an interesting conundrum, where SC genes need to be robustly expressed during meiosis, but their expression must be carefully regulated to prevent the formation of anomalous SC structures. In this manuscript, we show that the Polycomb group protein Sfmbt, the Drosophila ortholog of human MBTD1 and L3MBTL2, is required to avoid excessive expression of SC genes during prophase I. Although SC assembly is normal after Sfmbt depletion, SC disassembly is abnormal with the formation of multiple synaptonemal complexes (polycomplexes) within the oocyte. Overexpression of the SC gene corona and depletion of other Polycomb group proteins are similarly associated with polycomplex formation during SC disassembly. These polycomplexes are highly dynamic and have a well-defined periodic structure. Further confirming the importance of Sfmbt, germ line depletion of this protein is associated with significant metaphase I defects and a reduction in female fertility. Since transcription of SC genes mostly occurs during early prophase I, our results suggest a role of Sfmbt and other Polycomb group proteins in downregulating the expression of these and other early prophase I genes during later stages of meiosis.