During meiosis in the females of many species, spindle assembly occurs in the absence of the microtubule-organizing centers called centrosomes. In the absence of centrosomes, the nature of the chromosome-based signal that recruits microtubules to promote spindle assembly as well as how spindle bipolarity is established and the chromosomes orient correctly towards the poles is not known. To address these questions, we focused on the chromosomal passenger complex (CPC). We have found that the CPC localizes in a ring around the meiotic chromosomes that is aligned with the axis of the spindle at all stages. Using new methods which dramatically increase the effectiveness of RNAi in the germline, we show that the CPC interacts with Drosophila oocyte chromosomes and is required for the assembly of spindle microtubules. Furthermore, chromosome bi-orientation and the localization of the central spindle kinesin-6 protein Subito, which is required for spindle bipolarity, depend on the CPC components Aurora B and Incenp. Based on these data we propose that the ring of CPC around the chromosomes regulates multiple aspects of meiotic cell division including spindle assembly, the establishment of bipolarity, the recruitment of important spindle organization factors, and the bi-orientation of homologous chromosomes.
During cell division, a bipolar array of microtubules forms the spindle through which the forces required for chromosome segregation are transmitted. Interestingly, the spindle as a whole is stable enough to support these forces even though it is composed of dynamic microtubules, which are constantly undergoing periods of growth and shrinkage. Indeed, the regulation of microtubule dynamics is essential to the integrity and function of the spindle. We show here that a member of an important class of microtubule-depolymerizing kinesins, KLP10A, is required for the proper organization of the acentrosomal meiotic spindle in Drosophila melanogaster oocytes. In the absence of KLP10A, microtubule length is not controlled, resulting in extraordinarily long and disorganized spindles. In addition, the interactions between chromosomes and spindle microtubules are disturbed and can result in the loss of contact. These results indicate that the regulation of microtubule dynamics through KLP10A plays a critical role in restricting the length and maintaining bipolarity of the acentrosomal meiotic spindle and in promoting the contacts that the chromosomes make with microtubules required for meiosis I segregation.
Repair of meiotic double-strand breaks (DSBs) uses the homolog and recombination to yield crossovers while alternative pathways such as nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) are suppressed. Our results indicate that NHEJ is blocked at two steps of DSB repair during meiotic prophase: first by the activity of the MCM-like protein MEI-218 that is required for crossover formation and, second, by Rad51-related proteins SPN-B (XRCC3) and SPN-D (RAD51C) that physically interact and promote homologous recombination. We further show that the MCM-like proteins also promote the activity of the DSB repair checkpoint pathway, indicating an early requirement for these proteins in DSB processing. We propose that when a meiotic DSB is formed in the absence of both MEI-218 and SPN-B or SPN-D, a DSB substrate is generated that can enter the NHEJ repair pathway. Indeed, due to its high error rate, multiple barriers may have evolved to prevent NHEJ activity during meiosis.