While cyclin dependent kinase 1 (CDK1) has a critical role in controlling resumption of meiosis in oocytes, its role has not been investigated directly in spermatocytes. Unique aspects of male meiosis led us to hypothesize that its role is different in male meiosis than in female meiosis. We generated a conditional knockout (cKO) of the Cdk1 gene in mouse spermatocytes to test this hypothesis. We found that CDK1-null spermatocytes undergo synapsis, chiasmata formation, and desynapsis as is seen in oocytes. Additionally, CDK1-null spermatocytes relocalize SYCP3 to centromeric foci, express H3pSer10, and initiate chromosome condensation. However, CDK1-null spermatocytes fail to form condensed bivalent chromosomes in prophase of meiosis I and instead are arrested at prometaphase. Thus, CDK1 has an essential role in male meiosis that is consistent with what is known about the role of CDK1 in female meiosis, where it is required for formation of condensed bivalent metaphase chromosomes and progression to the first meiotic division. We found that cKO spermatocytes formed fully condensed bivalent chromosomes in the presence of okadaic acid, suggesting that cKO chromosomes are competent to condense, although they do not do so in vivo. Additionally, arrested cKO spermatocytes exhibited irregular cell shape, irregular large nuclei, and large distinctive nucleoli. These cells persist in the seminiferous epithelium through the next seminiferous epithelial cycle with a lack of stage XII checkpoint-associated cell death. This indicates that CDK1 is required upstream of a checkpoint-associated cell death as well as meiotic metaphase progression in mouse spermatocytes.
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Vol. 93 • No. 6