The consequences of sequence erosion in the evolution of recombination hotspots

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2017 Dec 19;372(1736):20160462. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0462.


Meiosis is initiated by a double-strand break (DSB) introduced in the DNA by a highly controlled process that is repaired by recombination. In many organisms, recombination occurs at specific and narrow regions of the genome, known as recombination hotspots, which overlap with regions enriched for DSBs. In recent years, it has been demonstrated that conversions and mutations resulting from the repair of DSBs lead to a rapid sequence evolution at recombination hotspots eroding target sites for DSBs. We still do not fully understand the effect of this erosion in the recombination activity, but evidence has shown that the binding of trans-acting factors like PRDM9 is affected. PRDM9 is a meiosis-specific, multi-domain protein that recognizes DNA target motifs by its zinc finger domain and directs DSBs to these target sites. Here we discuss the changes in affinity of PRDM9 to eroded recognition sequences, and explain how these changes in affinity of PRDM9 can affect recombination, leading sometimes to sterility in the context of hybrid crosses. We also present experimental data showing that DNA methylation reduces PRDM9 binding in vitro Finally, we discuss PRDM9-independent hotspots, posing the question how these hotspots evolve and change with sequence erosion.This article is part of the themed issue 'Evolutionary causes and consequences of recombination rate variation in sexual organisms'.

Keywords: PRDM9; binding motifs; double-strand breaks; recombination hotspots.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase / genetics*
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • Meiosis*
  • Mice / genetics
  • Recombination, Genetic*
  • Zinc Fingers / genetics


  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase