Initiation of meiotic recombination: how and where? Conservation and specificities among eukaryotes

Annu Rev Genet. 2013;47:563-99. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genet-110711-155423.


Meiotic recombination is essential for fertility in most sexually reproducing species. This process also creates new combinations of alleles and has important consequences for genome evolution. Meiotic recombination is initiated by the formation of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), which are repaired by homologous recombination. DSBs are catalyzed by the evolutionarily conserved SPO11 protein, assisted by several other factors. Some of them are absolutely required, whereas others are needed only for full levels of DSB formation and may participate in the regulation of DSB timing and frequency as well as the coordination between DSB formation and repair. The sites where DSBs occur are not randomly distributed in the genome, and remarkably distinct strategies have emerged to control their localization in different species. Here, I review the recent advances in the components required for DSB formation and localization in the various model organisms in which these studies have been performed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Centromere / genetics
  • Centromere / ultrastructure
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromatin / ultrastructure
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Crossing Over, Genetic
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded
  • DNA Repair
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type II / genetics
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type II / physiology
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases / physiology
  • Eukaryota / genetics*
  • Gene Duplication
  • Homologous Recombination*
  • Humans
  • Meiosis / genetics*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Protein Isoforms / physiology
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Species Specificity
  • Tandem Repeat Sequences
  • Telomere / genetics
  • Telomere / ultrastructure


  • Chromatin
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type II