Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rewriting Textbooks On DNA Crossover

Date:
April 20, 2004
Source:
University Of California - Davis
Summary:
Key decisions in the genetic shuffling that occurs before eggs or sperm are formed are made earlier than thought, rewriting textbook genetics, according to recent papers from researchers at UC Davis, Harvard University and UC San Diego.

Key decisions in the genetic shuffling that occurs before eggs or sperm are formed are made earlier than thought, rewriting textbook genetics, according to recent papers from researchers at UC Davis, Harvard University and UC San Diego.

For sexual reproduction to occur, organisms have to form gametes (in animals, gametes are eggs or sperm) with half the usual number of chromosomes, so that when two gametes fuse during fertilization the offspring will have an equal genetic contribution from each parent. This process is called meiosis: Without it, the chromosome number would double with every generation.

Meiosis includes a crucial step in which DNA is broken and either repaired by "crossing over" with another chromosome or healed without a crossover. Each pair of chromosomes must have at least one crossover for meiosis to work. New research shows that the decision to make a crossover or not is made much earlier than previously thought, and sheds light on the molecular basis of this process.

Exchanging DNA

Two copies of each chromosome are present in each body cell. During meiosis, each chromosome lines up with its partner, and the DNA molecules are cut in several places. The partner chromosome DNA acts as a template to heal the breaks. This process, known as homologous recombination, can result in the exchange of chunks of DNA between chromosome arms -- a crossover. Or a break can be healed without exchanging DNA to give a non-crossover recombination.

Recombination stabilizes chromosome pairing, and crossovers are specifically required for the accurate distribution of chromosomes into the gamete cells, said Neil Hunter, assistant professor of microbiology at UC Davis. If the process fails, a gamete might end up with the wrong number of chromosomes, potentially leading to birth defects such as Down syndrome.

How chromosomes decide to make a crossover or non-crossover recombination has been "something of a mystery," Hunter said.

The textbook explanation has been that the linked DNA strands form structures called Holliday junctions that on paper can be processed in two different ways to create either a crossover or non-crossover. This model implies that the decision is made at a very late step, Hunter said.

Working in the brewer's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Hunter and colleagues Valentin Boerner and Nancy Kleckner of Harvard University, writing in the April 1 issue of Cell, show instead that the decision on whether or not to crossover is made at a much earlier stage: after the DNA is broken but before the ends of the breaks become stably intertwined with their partner chromosome. Once the decision is made, chromosomes are shepherded along to form Holliday junctions and then crossovers by a group of six proteins called the ZMMs.

In the same issue of Cell, Olga Mazina, Alexander Mazin and Stephen Kowalczykowski from UC Davis with Takuro Nakagawa and Richard Kolodner from the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research at UC San Diego studied one of the ZMM proteins, Mer3, known to be important for crossover recombination to occur. They found that Mer3 unwinds the DNA double helix but works only in one direction relative to the broken DNA end. It blocks extension of the DNA strand in the opposite direction. Mer3 therefore helps to stabilize the Holliday junction structure and promotes crossover recombination, Hunter said.

The findings mean that the pathways to crossover and non-crossover recombination are distinct, and distinct from an early stage, Hunter said. That turns the textbook account of meiosis on its head, he said.

While researchers now have a better understanding of the process, how the decision is made remains a mystery, Hunter said.

"We're getting insights, but we're left with big questions," he said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of California - Davis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of California - Davis. "Rewriting Textbooks On DNA Crossover." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 April 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040420013627.htm>.
University Of California - Davis. (2004, April 20). Rewriting Textbooks On DNA Crossover. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040420013627.htm
University Of California - Davis. "Rewriting Textbooks On DNA Crossover." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040420013627.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

AP (Aug. 26, 2014) It took Houston firefighters more than an hour to free a puppy who got its head stuck in a tire. (Aug. 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) A study published in the journal "Neurology" interviewed more than 19,000 people and found 15 percent suffer from being "sleep drunk." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Great White Shark Spotted Off Massachusetts Coast

Great White Shark Spotted Off Massachusetts Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) A great white shark is spotted off the shore at Duxbury beach in Massachusetts forcing beach goers out of the water. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elk Wanders Into German Office Building

Raw: Elk Wanders Into German Office Building

AP (Aug. 25, 2014) A young bull elk wandered inside the office building of a company in Dresden, Germany on Monday. The elk became trapped between a wall and glass windows while rescue workers tried to rescue him safely. (Aug. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins