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Journal Articles Cytogenetic and Genome Research Year : 2023

Improved Basic Cytogenetics Challenges Holocentricity of Butterfly Chromosomes


Mitotic chromosomes of butterflies, which look like dots or short filaments in most published data, are generally considered to lack localised centromeres and thus to be holokinetic. This particularity, observed in a number of other invertebrates, is associated with meiotic particularities known as “inverted meiosis,” in which the first division is equational, i.e., centromere splitting-up and segregation of sister chromatids instead of homologous chromosomes. However, the accurate analysis of butterfly chromosomes is difficult because (1) their size is very small, equivalent to 2 bands of a mammalian metaphase chromosome, and (2) they lack satellite DNA/heterochromatin in putative centromere regions and therefore marked primary constrictions. Our improved conditions for basic chromosome preparations, here applied to 6 butterfly species belonging to families Nymphalidae and Pieridae challenges the holocentricity of their chromosomes: in spite of the absence of primary constrictions, sister chromatids are recurrently held together at definite positions during mitotic metaphase, which makes possible to establish karyotypes composed of acrocentric and submetacentric chromosomes. The total number of chromosomes per karyotype is roughly inversely proportional to that of non-acrocentric chromosomes, which suggests the occurrence of frequent robertsonian-like fusions or fissions during evolution. Furthermore, the behaviour and morphological changes of chromosomes along the various phases of meiosis do not seem to differ much from those of canonical meiosis. In particular, at metaphase II chromosomes clearly have 2 sister chromatids, which refutes that anaphase I was equational. Thus, we propose an alternative mechanism to holocentricity for explaining the large variations in chromosome numbers in butterflies: (1) in the ancestral karyotype, composed of about 62 mostly acrocentric chromosomes, the centromeres, devoid of centromeric heterochromatin/satellite DNA, were located at contact with telomeric heterochromatin; (2) the instability of telomeric heterochromatin largely contributed to drive the multiple rearrangements, principally chromosome fusions, which occurred during butterfly evolution.
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hal-04084494 , version 1 (15-11-2023)



Bernard Dutrillaux, Anne-Marie Dutrillaux, Mélanie Mcclure, Marc Gèze, Marianne Elias, et al.. Improved Basic Cytogenetics Challenges Holocentricity of Butterfly Chromosomes. Cytogenetic and Genome Research, 2023, 162 (5), pp.262-272. ⟨10.1159/000526034⟩. ⟨hal-04084494⟩
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