Homolog pairing is indispensable for the proper segregation of chromosomes in meiosis but the mechanism by which homologs uniquely pair with each other is poorly understood. In Drosophila, somatic chromosomes also undergo full homolog pairing by an unknown mechanism. It has been recently demonstrated that both insulator function and somatic long-distance interactions between Polycomb response elements (PREs) are stabilized by the RNAi machinery in Drosophila. This suggests the possibility that long-distance pairing interactions between homologs, either during meiosis or in the soma, may be stabilized by a similar mechanism. To test this hypothesis, we have characterized meiotic and early somatic chromosome pairing of homologous chromosomes in flies that are mutant for various components of the RNAi machinery. Despite the identification of a novel role for the piRNA machinery in meiotic progression and synaptonemal complex (SC) assembly, we have found that the components of the RNAi machinery that mediate long-distance chromosomal interactions are dispensable for homologous chromosome pairing. Thus, there appears to be at least two mechanisms that bring homologous sequences together within the nucleus: those that act between dispersed homologous sequences and those that act to align and pair homologous chromosomes.
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