In Neurospora, DNA unpaired in meiosis both is silenced and induces silencing of all DNA homologous to it. This process, called meiotic silencing by unpaired DNA, is thought to protect the host genome from invasion by transposable elements. We now show that silencing of unpaired (unsynapsed) chromosome regions also takes place in the mouse during both male and female meiosis. The tumor suppressor protein BRCA1 is implicated in this silencing, mirroring its role in the meiotic silencing of the X and Y chromosomes in normal male meiosis. These findings impact on the interpretation of the relationship between synaptic errors and sterility in mammals and extend our understanding of the biology of Brca1.