Both meiosis-specific and general recombination functions, recruited from the mitotic cell cycle, are required for elevated levels of recombination and for chromosome synapsis (assembly of the synaptonemal complex) during yeast meiosis. The meiosis-specific SPO11 gene (previously shown to be required for meiotic recombination) has been isolated and shown to be essential for synaptonemal complex formation but not for DNA metabolism during the vegetative cell cycle. In contrast, the RAD52 gene is required for mitotic and meiotic recombination but not for synaptonemal complex assembly. These data suggest that the synaptonemal complex may be necessary but is clearly not sufficient for meiotic recombination. Cytological analysis of spread meiotic nuclei demonstrates that chromosome behavior in yeast is comparable with that observed in larger eukaryotes. These spread preparations support the immunocytological localization of specific proteins in meiotic nuclei. This combination of genetic, molecular cloning, and cytological approaches in a single experimental system provides a means of addressing the role of specific gene products and nuclear structures in meiotic chromosome behavior.