Number and Nuclear Localisation of Nucleoli in Mammalian Spermatocytes

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Abstract

In seven mammalian species, including man, the position and number of nucleoli in pachytene spermatocyte nuclei were studied from electron microscope (EM) nuclear sections or bivalent microspreads. The number and position of the nucleolar organiser regions (NORs) in mitotic and meiotic chromosomes were also analysed, using silver staining techniques and in situ hybridisation protocols. The general organisation of pachytene spermatocyte nucleoli was almost the same, with only minor morphological differences between species. The terminal NORs of Thylamys elegans (Didelphoidea, Marsupialia), Dromiciops gliroides (Microbiotheridae, Marsupialia), Phyllotys osgoodi (Rodentia, Muridae) and man, always gave rise to peripheral nucleoli in the spermatocyte nucleus. In turn, the intercalated NORs from Octodon degus, Ctenomys opimus (Rodentia, Octodontidae) and Chinchilla lanigera (Rodentia, Cavidae), gave rise to central nucleoli. In species with a single nucleolar bivalent, just one nucleolus is formed, while in those with multiple nucleolar bivalents a variable number of nucleoli are formed by association of different nucleolar bivalents or NORs that occupy the same nuclear peripheral space (Phyllotis and man). It can be concluded that the position of each nucleolus within the spermatocyte nucleus is mainly dependent upon: (1) the position of the NOR in the nucleolar bivalent synaptonemal complex (SC), (2) the nuclear pathway of the nucleolar bivalent SC, being both telomeric ends attached to the nuclear envelope, and (3) the association between nucleolar bivalents by means of their NOR–nucleolar domains that occupy the same nuclear space. Thus, the distribution of nucleoli within the nuclear space of spermatocytes is non-random and it is consistent with the existence of a species-specific meiotic nuclear architecture.

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