The probability that a woman experiences fertility problems, a miscarriage or gives birth to a child with developmental conditions like Turner syndrome and Down’s syndrome increases with advanced age. This occurs because meiosis, the specialized type of cell division that reduces the number of chromosomes in the parent cell by half and produces four gamete cells, is highly error-prone.
The etiology of the much higher level of chromosome segregation defects in meiosis than in mitosis and the reasons why aneuploidy increases with advanced age are currently poorly known. Lack of such knowledge is an important problem, because, without it, it is difficult to establish the causes of the intrinsic chromosome segregation defects in meiosis and improve methods for treating fertility problems.
In our research program we want to understand the molecular mechanisms that ensure the coordination between chromosomal events and meiotic progression. Particularly, we are interested in understanding the role of the telomere bouquet, the conserved meiosis-specific configuration in which telomeres gather at the nuclear envelope via the association of telomeres with the ‘linker of nucleoskeleton and cytoskeleton’ LINC complex. In fission yeast, meiotic spindle formation requires formation of the telomere bouquet. Hence, destruction of the interaction between telomeres and LINC during meiotic prophase controls progression to later stages. Indeed, spindle failure in a bouquet-deficient setting is preceded by failure of nuclear envelope disassembly.
To explore the roles of the telomere bouquet, we used a combination of experimental approaches that includes genetics, biochemistry and live imaging.