Intense and highly localized gene conversion activity in human meiotic crossover hot spots

Nat Genet. 2004 Feb;36(2):151-6. doi: 10.1038/ng1287. Epub 2004 Jan 4.


Meiotic gene conversion has an important role in allele diversification and in the homogenization of gene and other repeat DNA sequence families, sometimes with pathological consequences. But little is known about the dynamics of gene conversion in humans and its relationship to meiotic crossover. We therefore developed screening and selection methods to characterize sperm conversions in two meiotic crossover hot spots in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and one in the sex chromosomal pseudoautosomal pairing region PAR1 (ref. 9). All three hot spots are active in gene conversion and crossover. Conversion tracts are short and define a steep bidirectional gradient centered at the peak of crossover activity, consistent with crossovers and conversions being produced by the same recombination-initiating events. These initiations seem to be spread over a narrow zone, rather than occurring at a single site, and seem preferentially to yield conversions rather than crossovers. Crossover breakpoints are more broadly diffused than conversion breakpoints, suggesting either differences between conversion and crossover processing after initiation or the existence of a quality control checkpoint at which short interactions between homologous chromosomes are preferentially aborted as conversions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Crossing Over, Genetic / physiology*
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA Repair
  • Gene Conversion / physiology*
  • Genetic Markers
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex / genetics
  • Male
  • Meiosis / physiology*
  • Spermatozoa / physiology


  • Genetic Markers