TILL HE HEARD THEM HOLLER STOP: “Biologists identify reproductive ‘traffic cop’”

By Meg Thode

Researchers at University of Iowa have discovered a protein which regulates chromosome pairing during fertilization. At the beginning of fertilization the female and male chromosomes pair up and share genetic information — a crucial moment in “an offspring's successful inheritance of its parents' genes.” The findings, published in The Journal of Cell Biology, suggest that the protein (FKB-6) acts like a “traffic cop,” slowing down maternal and paternal chromosomes to ensure they line up properly before sharing DNA. Co-author Sarit Smolikove emphasizes “this is the first study to show the importance of negative regulation of chromosome movement” which “indicates that precise control of chromosome movement is imperative for the success of these processes."

Smolikove uses the metaphor of a parent zipping up a child’s coat: “If the child is jerking about as the parent tries to zip the coat, it takes longer for the action to be completed; worse, the zipper could break, meaning the coat doesn't get zipped at all. Likewise, the chromosome strands need to line up and have the time to "zip up," so genetic information is accurately swapped.”

Although the protein was discovered in nematodes (a class of worms often used in biology research) it has greater implications for other species, including humans. This discovery sheds light on the processes of animal fertility and could contribute to our understanding of genetic defects that occur during reproduction.


University of Iowa. (2017, January 24). Biologists identify reproductive 'traffic cop': Protein dictates speed at which chromosomes pair up, share DNA. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 4, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170124111453.htm