Sources And Preparation Of Chromosomes From Insects

Mitotic chromosomes undergoing the familiar stages of prophase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase can be prepared from any insect somatic tissues with dividing cells. Embryos are the best sources of mitotic divisions, but they are also seen in the midgut ceca of adults and juveniles and in the follicle cells covering very early ova in females.

Insect cytogeneticists now usually use colchicine or other mitostatic agents to arrest the chromosomes at metaphase of mitosis by inhibiting the formation of the spindle fibers required for the cells to progress to anaphase. Squashing, under a coverslip, spreads the chromosomes, and for squash preparations the cells are usually prestained. Insect cytogeneticists now often use air-drying to spread the chromosomes, since this process has the advantage of making the chromosomes immediately available for modern banding and molecular cytogenetic methods.

Male meiosis is very commonly used to analyze the chromosomes of insects and to analyze sex-determining mechanisms. The structure of the insect testis is very favorable to chromosomal studies because each lobe has a single apical cell that divides by a number (s) of spermatogonial divisions (Fig. 1A) to yield 2s primary spermatocytes, which then undergo synchronous first and second meiotic divisions to yield 2s + 1 secondary spermatocytes and 2s + 2 sperm.

First meiotic prophase in insects involves the usual stages (Fig. 1). Replication of the DNA is followed by the prophase stages of leptotene (strand forming), zygotene (chromosome pairing to form bivalents), pachytene (crossing over to yield recombinants), diplotene (repulsion of the homologues), diakinesis (completion of repulsion), and premetaphase (bivalents fully condensed).

Metaphase I is followed by first anaphase, which can be a very informative stage and, in contrast to mammals, is readily available in insects. Second meiotic division is also readily observed in insects (Fig. 1) and can be useful for confirming events in earlier stages.

Meiotic chromosomes in insect females are difficult to prepare and are usually studied only in special cases, such as parthenogenesis.

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