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Nat Plants. 2018 Dec;4(12):1010-1016. doi: 10.1038/s41477-018-0311-x. Epub 2018 Nov 26.

Unleashing meiotic crossovers in crops.

Author information

CIRAD, UMR AGAP, Montpellier, France.
Université Montpellier, CIRAD, INRA Montpellier SupAgro, Montpellier, France.
Agroécologie, AgroSup Dijon, INRA, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté, Dijon, France.
UMR 1332 BFP, INRA, Université Bordeaux, Villenave d'Ornon, France.
Institute of Plant Sciences, Paris-Saclay IPS2, CNRS, INRA, Université Paris-Sud, Université Evry, Université Paris-Saclay, Orsay, France.
Institut Jean-Pierre Bourgin, UMR1318 INRA-AgroParisTech, Université Paris-Saclay, Versailles, France.


Improved plant varieties are important in our attempts to face the challenges of a growing human population and limited planet resources. Plant breeding relies on meiotic crossovers to combine favourable alleles into elite varieties1. However, meiotic crossovers are relatively rare, typically one to three per chromosome2, limiting the efficiency of the breeding process and related activities such as genetic mapping. Several genes that limit meiotic recombination were identified in the model species Arabidopsis thaliana2. Mutation of these genes in Arabidopsis induces a large increase in crossover frequency. However, it remained to be demonstrated whether crossovers could also be increased in crop species hybrids. We explored the effects of mutating the orthologues of FANCM3, RECQ44 or FIGL15 on recombination in three distant crop species, rice (Oryza sativa), pea (Pisum sativum) and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). We found that the single recq4 mutation increases crossovers about three-fold in these crops, suggesting that manipulating RECQ4 may be a universal tool for increasing recombination in plants. Enhanced recombination could be used with other state-of-the-art technologies such as genomic selection, genome editing or speed breeding6 to enhance the pace and efficiency of plant improvement.


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