MSH5, a member of the MutS homolog DNA mismatch repair protein family, has been shown to be required for proper homologous chromosome recombination in diverse organisms such as mouse, budding yeast and Caenorhabditis elegans. In this paper, we show that a mutant Arabidopsis plant carrying the putative disrupted AtMSH5 gene exhibits defects during meiotic division, producing a proportion of nonviable pollen grains and abnormal embryo sacs, and thereby leading to a decrease in fertility. AtMSH5 expression is confined to meiotic floral buds, which is consistent with a possible role during meiosis. Cytological analysis of male meiosis revealed the presence of numerous univalents from diplotene to metaphase I, which were associated with a great reduction in chiasma frequencies. The average number of residual chiasmata in the mutant is reduced to 2.54 per meiocyte, which accounts for approximately 25% of the amount in the wild type. Here, quantitative cytogenetical analysis reveals that the residual chiasmata in Atmsh5 mutants are randomly distributed among meiocytes, suggesting that AtMSH5 has an essential role during interference-sensitive chiasma formation. Taken together, the evidence indicates that AtMSH5 promotes homologous recombination through facilitating chiasma formation during prophase I in Arabidopsis.