Meiotic Recombination: The Essence of Heredity

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2015 Oct 28;7(12):a016618. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a016618.


The study of homologous recombination has its historical roots in meiosis. In this context, recombination occurs as a programmed event that culminates in the formation of crossovers, which are essential for accurate chromosome segregation and create new combinations of parental alleles. Thus, meiotic recombination underlies both the independent assortment of parental chromosomes and genetic linkage. This review highlights the features of meiotic recombination that distinguish it from recombinational repair in somatic cells, and how the molecular processes of meiotic recombination are embedded and interdependent with the chromosome structures that characterize meiotic prophase. A more in-depth review presents our understanding of how crossover and noncrossover pathways of meiotic recombination are differentiated and regulated. The final section of this review summarizes the studies that have defined defective recombination as a leading cause of pregnancy loss and congenital disease in humans.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chromosomes / metabolism
  • Chromosomes / physiology
  • Crossing Over, Genetic
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded
  • Endonucleases / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Age
  • Meiosis*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Recombination, Genetic*
  • Reproduction / genetics


  • DNA
  • Endonucleases