Structural investigation and morphometry of meiotic chromosomes by scanning electron microscopy (in comparison to light microscopy) of all stages of condensation of meiosis I + II show remarkable differences during chromosome condensation in mitosis and meiosis I of rye (Secale cereale) with respect to initiation, mode and degree of condensation. Mitotic chromosomes condense in a linear fashion, shorten in length and increase moderately in diameter. In contrast, in meiosis I, condensation of chromosomes in length and diameter is a sigmoidal process with a retardation in zygotene and pachytene and an acceleration from diplotene to diakinesis. The basic structural components of mitotic chromosomes of rye are “parallel fibers” and “chromomeres” which become highly compacted in metaphase. Although chromosome architecture in early prophase of meiosis seems similar to mitosis in principle, there is no equivalent stage during transition to metaphase I when chromosomes condense to a much higher degree and show a characteristic “smooth” surface. No indication was found for helical winding of chromosomes either in mitosis or in meiosis. Based on measurements, we propose a mechanism for chromosome dynamics in mitosis and meiosis, which involves three individual processes: (i) aggregation of chromatin subdomains into a chromosome filament, (ii) condensation in length, which involves a progressive increase in diameter and (iii) separation of chromatids.   

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