The events that take place during the prophase of meiosis I are essential for the correct segregation of homologous chromosomes. Defects in these processes likely contribute to infertility or recurrent pregnancy loss in humans. To screen for candidate genes for reproductive failure due to meiotic defects, we have analyzed the gene expression patterns in fetal, neonatal and adult gonads of both male and female mice by microarray and thereby identified 241 genes that are expressed specifically during prophase of meiosis I. Combined with our previous data obtained from developing spermatocytes, a total of 99 genes were identified that are upregulated in early prophase I. We confirmed the meiotic prophase I-specific expression of these genes using qRT-PCR. To further screen this panel for candidate genes that fulfill important roles in homologous pairing, synapsis and recombination, we established a gene transfer system for prophase I oocytes in combination with in vitro organ culture of ovaries, and successfully determined the localization of the selected genes. This gene set can thus serve as a resource for targeted sequence analysis via next-generation sequencing to identify the genes associated with human reproduction failure due to meiotic defects.
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