Mammalian meiotic recombination, which preferentially occurs at specialized sites called hotspots, ensures the orderly segregation of meiotic chromosomes and creates genetic variation among offspring. A locus on mouse chromosome 17, which controls activation of recombination at multiple distant hotspots, has been mapped within a 181-kilobase interval, three of whose genes can be eliminated as candidates. The remaining gene, Prdm9, codes for a zinc finger containing histone H3K4 trimethylase that is expressed in early meiosis and whose deficiency results in sterility in both sexes. Mus musculus exhibits five alleles of Prdm9; human populations exhibit two predominant alleles and multiple minor alleles. The identification of Prdm9 as a protein regulating mammalian recombination hotspots initiates molecular studies of this important biological control system.