In most eukaryotes, homologous chromosomes (homologs) are closely apposed during the prophase of the first meiotic division by a ladderlike proteinaceous structure, the synaptonemal complex (SC) [Fawcett, J Biophys Biochem Cytol 2:403-406, 1956; Moses, J Biophys Biochem Cytol 2:215-218, 1956]. SCs consist of two proteinaceous axes, which each support the two sister chromatids of one homolog, and numerous transverse filaments (TFs), which connect the two axes. Organisms that assemble SCs perform meiotic recombination in the context of these structures. Although much information has accumulated about the composition of SCs and the pathways of meiotic crossing over, several questions remain about the role of SCs in meiosis, in particular, about the role of the TFs. In this review, we focus on possible role(s) of TFs. The interest in TF functions received new impulses from the recent characterization of TF-deficient mutants in a number of species. Intriguingly, the phenotypes of these mutants are very different, and a variety of TF functions appear to be hidden behind a façade of morphological conservation. However, in all TF-deficient mutants a specific class of crossovers that display interference is affected. TFs appear to create suitable preconditions for the formation of these crossovers in most species, but are most likely not directly involved in the interference process itself. Furthermore, TFs are important for full-length homolog alignment.