Spermatocyte responses in vitro to induced DNA damage.

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Mol Reprod Dev 2006 Aug; 73(8):1061-72.


Spermatocytes normally sustain many meiotically induced double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs) early in meiotic prophase; in autosomal chromatin, these are repaired by initiation of meiotic homologous-recombination processes. Little is known about how spermatocytes respond to environmentally induced DNA damage after recombination-related DSBs have been repaired. The experiments described here tested the hypothesis that, even though actively completing meiotic recombination, pachytene spermatocytes cultured in the absence of testicular somatic cells initiate appropriate chromatin remodeling and cell-cycle responses to environmentally induced DNA damage. Two DNA-damaging agents were employed for in vitro treatment of pachytene spermatocytes: gamma-irradiation and etoposide, a topoisomerase II (TOP2) inhibitor that results in persistent unligated DSBs. Chromatin modifications associated with DSBs were monitored after exposure by labeling surface-spread chromatin with antibodies against RAD51 (which recognizes DSBs) and the phosphorylated variant of histone H2AFX (herein designated by its commonly used symbol, H2AX), gammaH2AX (which modifies chromatin associated with DSBs). Both gammaH2AX and RAD51 were rapidly recruited to irradiation- or etoposide-damaged chromatin. These chromatin modifications imply that spermatocytes recruit active DNA damage responses, even after recombination is substantially completed. Furthermore, irradiation-induced DNA damage inhibited okadaic acid-induced progression of spermatocytes from meiotic prophase to metaphase I (MI), implying efficacy of DNA damage checkpoint mechanisms. Apoptotic responses of spermatocytes with DNA damage differed, with an increase in frequency of early apoptotic spermatocytes after etoposide treatment, but not following irradiation. Taken together, these results demonstrate modification of pachytene spermatocyte chromatin and inhibition of meiotic progress after DNA damage by mechanisms that may ensure gametic genetic integrity.