BRDT is an essential epigenetic regulator for proper chromatin organization, silencing of sex chromosomes and crossover formation in male meiosis
The double bromodomain and extra-terminal domain (BET) proteins are critical epigenetic readers that bind to acetylated histones in chromatin and regulate transcriptional activity and modulate changes in chromatin structure and organization. The testis-specific BET member, BRDT, is essential for the normal progression of spermatogenesis as mutations in the Brdt gene result in complete male sterility. Although BRDT is expressed in both spermatocytes and spermatids, loss of the first bromodomain of BRDT leads to severe defects in spermiogenesis without overtly compromising meiosis. In contrast, complete loss of BRDT blocks the progression of spermatocytes into the first meiotic division, resulting in a complete absence of post-meiotic cells. Although BRDT has been implicated in chromatin remodeling and mRNA processing during spermiogenesis, little is known about its role in meiotic processes. Here we report that BRDT is an essential regulator of chromatin organization and reprograming during prophase I of meiosis. Loss of BRDT function disrupts the epigenetic state of the meiotic sex chromosome inactivation in spermatocytes, affecting the synapsis and silencing of the X and Y chromosomes. We also found that BRDT controls the global chromatin organization and histone modifications of the chromatin attached to the synaptonemal complex. Furthermore, the homeostasis of crossover formation and localization during pachynema was altered, underlining a possible epigenetic mechanism by which crossovers are regulated and differentially established in mammalian male genomes. Our observations reveal novel findings about the function of BRDT in meiosis and provide insight into how epigenetic regulators modulate the progression of male mammalian meiosis and the formation of haploid gametes.