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Lampbrush chromosomes (LBCs) are transcriptionally active chromosomes found in the germinal vesicle (GV) of large oocytes of many vertebrate and invertebrate animals and also in the giant single-celled alga Acetabularia. These cells are all in prophase of the first meiotic division. Nevertheless, many meiotic cells do not develop LBCs, arguing that LBCs are not an essential feature of meiosis. LBCs probably represent the most active transcriptional state that can be attained by cells that must give rise to diploid progeny. Polyploidy permits cells to reach higher rates of transcription per nucleus but precludes a return to diploidy. In this sense, LBCs represent a relatively inefficient transcriptional compromise employed by large meiotic cells. These considerations help to explain why transcriptionally active GVs develop LBCs, but they do not explain why LBCs have never been seen in somatic cells, diploid or otherwise. If LBCs are truly limited to germ cells, then some of their unusual features may reflect reprogramming of the genome. If this is the case, LBCs provide unique opportunities to study reprogramming at the level of the individual transcription unit.


Joseph G Gall. Are lampbrush chromosomes unique to meiotic cells? Chromosome research : an international journal on the molecular, supramolecular and evolutionary aspects of chromosome biology. 2012 Dec;20(8):905-9

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PMID: 23263880

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