Impact of the number of Robertsonian chromosomes on germ cell death in wild male house mice

Nuria Medarde, Valeria Merico, Mª José López-Fuster, Maurizio Zuccotti, Silvia Garagna, Jacint Ventura

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6 Citations (Scopus)


© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. Previous studies in the house mouse have shown that the presence of Robertsonian (Rb) metacentric chromosomes in heterozygous condition affects the process of spermatogenesis. This detrimental effect mainly depends on the number of metacentrics involved and the complexity of the resulting meiotic figures. In this study, we aimed at elucidating the relationship between the chromosomal composition and spermatogenesis impairment in mice present in an area of chromosomal polymorphism (the so-called Barcelona system BRbS) in which Rb mice are surrounded by all acrocentric animals, no established metacentric races are present and the level of structural heterozygosity is relatively low. Using the terminal deoxinucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labelling (TUNEL) assay, we report higher frequency of apoptotic spermatogenetic cells in mice carrying six pairs of metacentrics at the homozygous state than in those carrying two or three fusions at the heterozygous state. Specifically, we detected a higher frequency of TUNEL-positive (T+) tubules and of T+ cells per tubule cross section and also a lower spermatid/spermatocyte ratio. These results indicate that the number of metacentrics at the homozygous state is more influential in determining apoptotic germ cell death than that of moderate chromosome heterozygosity. The percentage of germ cell death lower than 50 % found in our samples and the geographic distribution of the set of metacentrics within the BRbS indicate that although the spermatogenic alterations detected in this area could act as a partial barrier to gene flow, they are not sufficient to prevent Rb chromosomes from spreading in nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-169
JournalChromosome Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2015


  • Apoptosis
  • Mus musculus domesticus
  • Robertsonian fusion
  • Spermatogenesis
  • Western house mouse


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