In many organisms, female and male meiosis display extensive sexual dimorphism in the temporal meiotic program, the number and location of recombination events, sex chromosome segregation, and checkpoint function. We show here that both meiotic prophase timing and germ-line apoptosis, one output of checkpoint signaling, are dictated by the sex of the germ line (oogenesis vs. spermatogenesis) in Caenorhabditis elegans. During oogenesis in feminized animals ( fem-3), a single pair of asynapsed autosomes elicits a checkpoint response, yet an unpaired X chromosome fails to induce checkpoint activation. The single X in males and fem-3 worms is a substrate for the meiotic recombination machinery and repair of the resulting double strand breaks appears to be delayed compared with worms carrying paired X chromosomes. Synaptonemal complex axial HORMA domain proteins, implicated in repair of meiotic double strand breaks (DSBs) and checkpoint function, are assembled and disassembled on the single X similarly to paired chromosomes, but the central region component, SYP-1, is not loaded on the X chromosome in males. In fem-3 worms some X chromosomes achieve nonhomologous self-synapsis; however, germ cells with SYP-1-positive X chromosomes are not preferentially protected from apoptosis. Analyses of chromatin and X-linked gene expression indicate that a single X, unlike asynapsed X chromosomes or autosomes, maintains repressive chromatin marks and remains transcriptionally silenced and suggests that this state locally precludes checkpoint signaling.
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