Mouse HFM1/Mer3 is required for crossover formation and complete synapsis of homologous chromosomes during meiosis

PLoS Genet. 2013 Mar;9(3):e1003383. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003383. Epub 2013 Mar 21.


Faithful chromosome segregation during meiosis requires that homologous chromosomes associate and recombine. Chiasmata, the cytological manifestation of recombination, provide the physical link that holds the homologs together as a pair, facilitating their orientation on the spindle at meiosis I. Formation of most crossover (CO) events requires the assistance of a group of proteins collectively known as ZMM. HFM1/Mer3 is in this group of proteins and is required for normal progression of homologous recombination and proper synapsis between homologous chromosomes in a number of model organisms. Our work is the first study in mammals showing the in vivo function of mouse HFM1. Cytological observations suggest that initial steps of recombination are largely normal in a majority of Hfm1(-/-) spermatocytes. Intermediate and late stages of recombination appear aberrant, as chromosomal localization of MSH4 is altered and formation of MLH1foci is drastically reduced. In agreement, chiasma formation is reduced, and cells arrest with subsequent apoptosis at diakinesis. Our results indicate that deletion of Hfm1 leads to the elimination of a major fraction but not all COs. Formation of chromosome axial elements and homologous pairing is apparently normal, and Hfm1(-/-) spermatocytes progress to the end of prophase I without apparent developmental delay or apoptosis. However, synapsis is altered with components of the central region of the synaptonemal complex frequently failing to extend the full length of the chromosome axes. We propose that initial steps of recombination are sufficient to support homology recognition, pairing, and initial chromosome synapsis and that HFM1 is required to form normal numbers of COs and to complete synapsis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Chromosome Pairing / genetics*
  • Chromosomes / genetics
  • Crossing Over, Genetic*
  • DNA Helicases / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meiosis / genetics
  • Mice
  • Recombination, Genetic / genetics*
  • Spermatocytes* / cytology
  • Spermatocytes* / metabolism


  • HFM1 protein, human
  • HFM1 protein, mouse
  • DNA Helicases