Genetic evidence suggests that the product of the mei-1 gene of Caenorhabditis elegans is specifically required for meiosis in the female germline. Loss-of-function mei-1 mutations block meiotic spindle formation while a gain-of-function allele instead results in spindle defects during the early mitotic cleavages. In this report, we use immunocytochemistry to examine the localization of the mei-1 product in wild-type and mutant embryos. During metaphase of meiosis I in wild-type embryos, mei-1 protein was found throughout the spindle but was more concentrated toward the poles. At telophase I, mei-1 product colocalized with the chromatin at the spindle poles. The pattern was repeated during meiosis II but no mei-1 product was visible during the subsequent mitotic cleavages. The mei-1 gain-of-function allele resulted in ectopic mei-1 staining in the centers of the microtubule-organizing centers during interphase and in the spindles during the early cleavages. This aberrant localization is probably responsible for the poorly formed and misoriented cleavage spindles characteristic of the mutation. We also examined the localization of mei-1(+) product in the presence of mutations of genes that genetically interact with mei-1 alleles. mei-2 is apparently required to localize mei-1 product to the spindle during meiosis while mel-26 acts as a postmeiotic inhibitor. We conclude that mei-1 encodes a novel spindle component, one that is specialized for the acentriolar meiotic spindles unique to female meiosis. The genes mei-2 and mel-26 are part of a regulatory network that confines mei-1 activity to meiosis.

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