Homologous chromosome pairing in meiosis of higher eukaryotes—still an enigma?

J. Sybenga*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Meiosis is the basis of the generative reproduction of eukaryotes. The crucial first step is homologous chromosome pairing. In higher eukaryotes, micrometer-scale chromosomes, micrometer distances apart, are brought together by nanometer DNA sequences, at least a factor of 1000 size difference. Models of homology search, homologue movement, and pairing at the DNA level in higher eukaryotes are primarily based on studies with yeast where the emphasis is on the induction and repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSB). For such a model, the very large nuclei of most plants and animals present serious problems. Homology search without DSBs cannot be explained by models based on DSB repair. The movement of homologues to meet each other and make contact at the molecular level is not understood. These problems are discussed and the conclusion is that at present practically nothing is known of meiotic homologue pairing in higher eukaryotes up to the formation of the synaptonemal complex, and that new, necessarily speculative models must be developed. Arguments are given that RNA plays a central role in homology search and a tentative model involving RNA in homology search is presented. A role of actin in homologue movement is proposed. The primary role of DSBs in higher eukaryotes is concluded to not be in paring but in the preparation of Holliday junctions, ultimately leading to chromatid exchange.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-482
Number of pages14
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2020


  • Chromatid exchange
  • Chromosome pairing model
  • Double-strand DNA breaks
  • Homologue pairing
  • Meiosis higher eukaryotes
  • RNA

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