Structural maintenance of chromosomes (SMC) proteins promote homolog-independent recombination repair in meiosis crucial for germ cell genomic stability

PLoS Genet. 2010 Jul 22;6(7):e1001028. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1001028.


In meiosis, programmed DNA breaks repaired by homologous recombination (HR) can be processed into inter-homolog crossovers that promote the accurate segregation of chromosomes. In general, more programmed DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are formed than the number of inter-homolog crossovers, and the excess DSBs must be repaired to maintain genomic stability. Sister-chromatid (inter-sister) recombination is postulated to be important for the completion of meiotic DSB repair. However, this hypothesis is difficult to test because of limited experimental means to disrupt inter-sister and not inter-homolog HR in meiosis. We find that the conserved Structural Maintenance of Chromosomes (SMC) 5 and 6 proteins in Caenorhabditis elegans are required for the successful completion of meiotic homologous recombination repair, yet they appeared to be dispensable for accurate chromosome segregation in meiosis. Mutations in the smc-5 and smc-6 genes induced chromosome fragments and dismorphology. Chromosome fragments associated with HR defects have only been reported in mutants, which have disrupted inter-homolog crossover. Surprisingly, the smc-5 and smc-6 mutations did not disrupt the formation of chiasmata, the cytologically visible linkages between homologous chromosomes formed from meiotic inter-homolog crossovers. The mutant fragmentation defect appeared to be preferentially enhanced by the disruptions of inter-homolog recombination but not by the disruptions of inter-sister recombination. Based on these findings, we propose that the C. elegans SMC-5/6 proteins are required in meiosis for the processing of homolog-independent, presumably sister-chromatid-mediated, recombination repair. Together, these results demonstrate that the successful completion of homolog-independent recombination is crucial for germ cell genomic stability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / physiology
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / physiology
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / genetics*
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / physiology
  • Chromosomes
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded
  • DNA Repair*
  • Genomic Instability*
  • Germ Cells / cytology
  • Meiosis*
  • Mutation
  • Recombination, Genetic


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone