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Genetics. 1999 Nov;153(3):1271-83.

Crossing over during Caenorhabditis elegans meiosis requires a conserved MutS-based pathway that is partially dispensable in budding yeast.

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Department of Developmental Biology and Department of Genetics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


Formation of crossovers between homologous chromosomes during Caenorhabditis elegans meiosis requires the him-14 gene. Loss of him-14 function severely reduces crossing over, resulting in lack of chiasmata between homologs and consequent missegregation. Cytological analysis showing that homologs are paired and aligned in him-14 pachytene nuclei, together with temperature-shift experiments showing that him-14 functions during the pachytene stage, indicate that him-14 is not needed to establish pairing or synapsis and likely has a more direct role in crossover formation. him-14 encodes a germline-specific member of the MutS family of DNA mismatch repair (MMR) proteins. him-14 has no apparent role in MMR, but like its Saccharomyces cerevisiae ortholog MSH4, has a specialized role in promoting crossing over during meiosis. Despite this conservation, worms and yeast differ significantly in their reliance on this pathway: whereas worms use this pathway to generate most, if not all, crossovers, yeast still form 30-50% of their normal number of crossovers when this pathway is absent. This differential reliance may reflect differential stability of crossover-competent recombination intermediates, or alternatively, the presence of two different pathways for crossover formation in yeast, only one of which predominates during nematode meiosis. We discuss a model in which HIM-14 promotes crossing over by interfering with Holliday junction branch migration.

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