A Family of Zinc Finger Proteins Is Required for Chromosome-specific Pairing and Synapsis
during Meiosis in C. elegans
Homologous chromosome pairing and synapsis are prerequisite for accurate chromosome segregation during meiosis. Here, we show that a family of four related C2H2 zinc-finger proteins plays a central role in these events in C. elegans. These proteins are encoded within a tandem gene cluster. In addition to the X-specific HIM-8 protein, three additional paralogs collectively mediate the behavior of the five autosomes. Each chromosome relies on a specific member of the family to pair and synapse with its homolog. These "ZIM" proteins concentrate at special regions called meiotic pairing centers on the corresponding chromosomes. These sites are dispersed along the nuclear envelope during early meiotic prophase, suggesting a role analogous to the telomere-mediated meiotic bouquet in other organisms. To gain insight into the evolution of these components, we characterized homologs in C. briggsae and C. remanei, which revealed changes in copy number of this gene family within the nematode lineage.