Inverted meiosis and meiotic drive in mealybugs

Bongiorni, SF, P.; Pippoletti, D.; Prantera, G.,  Chromosoma,  112:331-341. 2004.

In the males of lecanoid coccids, or mealybugs, an entire, paternally derived, haploid chromosome set becomes heterochromatic after the seventh embryonic mitotic cycle. In females, both haploid sets are euchromatic throughout the life cycle. In mealybugs, as in all homopteran species, chromosomes are holocentric. Holocentric chromosomes are characterized by the lack of a localized centromere and consequently of a localized kinetic activity. In monocentric species, sister chromatid cohesion and monopolar attachment play a pivotal role in regulating chromosome behavior during the two meiotic divisions. Both these processes rely upon the presence of a single, localized centromere and as such cannot be properly executed by holocentric chromosomes. Here we furnish further evidence that meiosis is inverted in both sexes of mealybugs and we suggest how this might represent an adaptation to chromosome holocentrism. Moreover, we reveal that at the second meiotic division in males a monopolar spindle is formed, to which only euchromatic chromosomes become attached. By this mechanism the paternally derived, heterochromatic, haploid chromosome set strictly segregates from the euchromatic one, and it is then excluded from the genetic continuum as a result of meiotic drive.