ZYPing up genes
Chris Morgan, John Innes Centre
The image shows a cell from the model plant species Arabidopsis arenosa undergoing meiosis, a special form of cell division that produces the cells required for sexual reproduction (sperm and eggs in humans, pollen and eggs in plants). The cell has been imaged using structured illumination fluorescence microscopy, which enables complex chromosomal interactions to be visualised with unparalleled detail. During meiosis, chromosomes (labelled in blue) are organised into long, linear-arrays of DNA loops that are anchored at their base by a structure called the meiotic axis (labelled in green). The axes of paternally and maternally inherited pairs of chromosomes zip-together with the help of a protein called ZYP1 (labelled in red) and this enables sections of DNA to be exchanged between chromosome pairs. This process of DNA exchange is vital for generating diversity within offspring. Scientists at the John Innes Centre are trying to understand how the position and frequency of DNA exchange events are controlled in plants, which will be important for deepening our understanding of evolution and for improving current plant breeding techniques to generate novel crop varieties that will help feed Earth's ever-expanding population.