Update: Understanding and Manipulating Meiotic Recombination in Plants

Abstract

Meiosis is a specialized cell division, essential in most reproducing organisms to halve the number of chromosomes, thereby enabling the restoration of ploidy levels during fertilization. A key step of meiosis is homologous recombination, which promotes homologous pairing and generates crossovers (COs) to connect homologous chromosomes until their separation at anaphase I. These CO sites, seen cytologically as chiasmata, represent a reciprocal exchange of genetic information between two homologous nonsister chromatids. This gene reshuffling during meiosis has a significant influence on evolution and also plays an essential role in plant breeding, because a successful breeding program depends on the ability to bring the desired combinations of alleles on chromosomes. However, the number and distribution of COs during meiosis is highly constrained. There is at least one CO per chromosome pair to ensure accurate segregation of homologs, but in most organisms, the CO number rarely exceeds three regardless of chromosome size. Moreover, their positions are not random on chromosomes but exhibit regional preference. Thus, genes in recombination-poor regions tend to be inherited together, hindering the generation of novel allelic combinations that could be exploited by breeding programs. Recently, much progress has been made in understanding meiotic recombination. In particular, many genes involved in the process in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) have been identified and analyzed. With the coming challenges of food security and climate change, and our enhanced knowledge of how COs are formed, the interest and needs in manipulating CO formation are greater than ever before. In this review, we focus on advances in understanding meiotic recombination and then summarize the attempts to manipulate CO formation. Last, we pay special attention to the meiotic recombination in polyploidy, which is a common genomic feature for many crop plants.

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Lambing, C., Franklin, F.C.H. and Wang, C.-J.R. (2017). Understanding and Manipulating Meiotic Recombination in Plants. Plant Physiology. 173: 1530-1542.