Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Gonad Infinitum
09 March 2017

Gonad Infinitum

Although we inherit two copies of our genes (one each from mum and dad), they rarely meet inside our cells. But during meiosis, when we make our own sex cells – sperm or eggs – something odd happens. Pairs of gene-carrying chromosomes line up and swap bits – perhaps genes carrying traits like eye colour or big feet. This ‘genetic recombination’ gives each egg or sperm a different set of traits to pass on to our own children. Meiosis occurs in all sexually reproducing creatures, including the roundworm, Caenorhabditis elegans, whose sex cells develop in a pouch-like gonad. Cells in this gonad move from left to right at different stages in meiosis and produce proteins highlighted in three different colours (overlaid at the top). The red-coloured proteins help to form the synaptonemal complex – a sort of scaffold that helps chromosomes align and enables the genetic 'mash-up' that occurs in generation after generation.

A contributor to this work, Consuelo Barroso-Guttierez, is a member of this MRC LMS group

Written by John Ankers

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