Meiotic sex chromosome inactivation is disrupted in sterile hybrid male house mice

Polly Campbell, Jeffrey M. Good, Michael W. Nachman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


In male mammals, the X and Y chromosomes are transcriptionally silenced in primary spermatocytes by meiotic sex chromosome inactivation (MSCI) and remain repressed for the duration of spermatogenesis. Here, we test the longstanding hypothesis that disrupted MSCI might contribute to the preferential sterility of heterogametic hybrid males. We studied a cross between wildderived inbred strains of Mus musculus musculus and M. m. domesticus in which sterility is asymmetric: F1 males with a M. m. musculus mother are sterile or nearly so while F1 males with a M. m. domesticus mother are normal. In previous work, we discovered widespread overexpression of X-linked genes in the testes of sterile but not fertile F1 males. Here, we ask whether this overexpression is specifically a result of disrupted MSCI. To do this, we isolated cells from different stages of spermatogenesis and measured the expression of several genes using quantitative PCR. We found that X overexpression in sterile F1 primary spermatocytes is coincident with the onset of MSCI and persists in postmeiotic spermatids. Using a series of recombinant X genotypes, we then asked whether X overexpression in hybrids is controlled by cis-acting loci across the X chromosome. We found that it is not. Instead, one large interval in the proximal portion of the M. m. musculus X chromosome is associated with both overexpression and the severity of sterility phenotypes in hybrids. These results demonstrate a strong association between X-linked hybrid male sterility and disruption of MSCI and suggest that transacting loci on the X are important for the transcriptional regulation of the X chromosome during spermatogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)819-828
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013


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