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PLoS Genet. 2008 Sep 12;4(9):e1000186. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000186.

MUS81 generates a subset of MLH1-MLH3-independent crossovers in mammalian meiosis.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States of America.


Two eukaryotic pathways for processing double-strand breaks (DSBs) as crossovers have been described, one dependent on the MutL homologs Mlh1 and Mlh3, and the other on the structure-specific endonuclease Mus81. Mammalian MUS81 has been implicated in maintenance of genomic stability in somatic cells; however, little is known about its role during meiosis. Mus81-deficient mice were originally reported as being viable and fertile, with normal meiotic progression; however, a more detailed examination of meiotic progression in Mus81-null animals and WT controls reveals significant meiotic defects in the mutants. These include smaller testis size, a depletion of mature epididymal sperm, significantly upregulated accumulation of MLH1 on chromosomes from pachytene meiocytes in an interference-independent fashion, and a subset of meiotic DSBs that fail to be repaired. Interestingly, chiasmata numbers in spermatocytes from Mus81-/- animals are normal, suggesting additional integrated mechanisms controlling the two distinct crossover pathways. This study is the first in-depth analysis of meiotic progression in Mus81-nullizygous mice, and our results implicate the MUS81 pathway as a regulator of crossover frequency and placement in mammals.

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