Interactions between homologous chromosomes (pairing, recombination) are of central importance for meiosis. We studied entire chromosomes and defined chromosomal subregions in synchronous meiotic cultures of Schizosaccharomyces pombe by fluorescence in situ hybridization. Probes of different complexity were applied to spread nuclei, to delineate whole chromosomes, to visualize repeated sequences of centromeres, telomeres, and ribosomal DNA, and to study unique sequences of different chromosomal regions. In diploid nuclei, homologous chromosomes share a joint territory even before entry into meiosis. The centromeres of all chromosomes are clustered in vegetative and meiotic prophase cells, whereas the telomeres cluster near the nucleolus early in meiosis and maintain this configuration throughout meiotic prophase. Telomeres and centromeres appear to play crucial roles for chromosome organization and pairing, both in vegetative cells and during meiosis. Homologous pairing of unique sequences shows regional differences and is most frequent near centromeres and telomeres. Multiple homologous interactions are formed independently of each other. Pairing increases during meiosis, but not all chromosomal regions become closely paired in every meiosis. There is no detectable axial compaction of chromosomes in meiotic prophase. S. pombe does not form mature synaptonemal complexes, but axial element-like structures (linear elements), which were analyzed in parallel. Their appearance coincides with pairing of interstitial chromosomal regions. Axial elements may define minimal structures required for efficient pairing and recombination of meiotic chromosomes.

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