The Saccharomyces cerevisiae Spo11 protein is thought to catalyze formation of the DNA double-strand breaks that initiate meiotic recombination. We have cloned cDNA and genomic DNA for a mouse gene encoding a protein with significant sequence similarity to conserved domains found in proteins of the Spo11p family. This putative mouse Spo11 gene maps to the distal region of chromosome 2 (homologous to human chromosome 20q13.2-q13.3) and comprises at least 12 exons, spanning approximately 15-18 kb. Strong expression of the Spo11 message is seen in juvenile and adult testis by RNA in situ hybridization, RT-PCR, and Northern blot, with much weaker expression in thymus and brain. In situ hybridization detects expression in oocytes of embryonic ovary, but not of adult ovary. RT-PCR and in situ hybridization analyses of a time course of juvenile testis development indicate that Spo11 expression begins in early meiotic Prophase I, prior to the pachytene stage, with increasing accumulation of mRNA through the pachytene stage. Taken together, these results strongly suggest that this gene encodes the functional homolog of yeast Spo11p, which in turn suggests that the mechanism of meiotic recombination initiation is conserved between yeast and mammals.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.