The dynamics by which homologous chromosomes pair is currently unknown. Here, we use fluorescence in situ hybridization in combination with three-dimensional optical microscopy to show that homologous pairing of the somatic chromosome arm 2L in Drosophila occurs by independent initiation of pairing at discrete loci rather than by a processive zippering of sites along the length of chromosome. By evaluating the pairing frequencies of 11 loci on chromosome arm 2L over several timepoints during Drosophila embryonic development, we show that all 11 loci are paired very early in Drosophila development, within 13 h after egg deposition. To elucidate whether such pairing occurs by directed or undirected motion, we analyzed the pairing kinetics of histone loci during nuclear cycle 14. By measuring changes of nuclear length and correlating these changes with progression of time during cycle 14, we were able to express the pairing frequency and distance between homologous loci as a function of time. Comparing the experimentally determined dynamics of pairing to simulations based on previously proposed models of pairing motion, we show that the observed pairing kinetics are most consistent with a constrained random walk model and not consistent with a directed motion model. Thus, we conclude that simple random contacts through diffusion could suffice to allow pairing of homologous sites.
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