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Heterogeneous transposable elements as silencers, enhancers and targets of meiotic recombination

  • Charles J. UnderwoodEmail author
  • Kyuha ChoiEmail author


During meiosis, DNA double-strand breaks are initiated by the topoisomerase-like enzyme SPO11 and are repaired by inter-sister chromatid and inter-homologue DNA repair pathways. Genome-wide maps of initiating DNA double-strand breaks and inter-homologue repair events are now available for a number of mammalian, fungal and plant species. In mammals, PRDM9 specifies the location of meiotic recombination initiation via recognition of specific DNA sequence motifs by its C2H2 zinc finger array. In fungi and plants, meiotic recombination appears to be initiated less discriminately in accessible chromatin, including at gene promoters. Generally, meiotic crossover is suppressed in highly repetitive genomic regions that are made up of transposable elements (TEs), to prevent deleterious non-allelic homologous recombination events. However, recent and older studies have revealed intriguing relationships between meiotic recombination initiation and repair, and transposable elements. For instance, gene conversion events have been detected in maize centromeric retroelements, mouse MULE-MuDR DNA transposons undergo substantial meiotic recombination initiation, Arabidopsis Helitron TEs are among the hottest of recombination initiation hotspots, and human TE sequences can modify the crossover rate at adjacent PRDM9 motifs in cis. Here, we summarize the relationship between meiotic recombination and TEs, discuss recent insights from highly divergent eukaryotes and highlight outstanding questions in the field.


Transposable elements Meiosis Recombination Crossover DNA repair Epigenetics 



K.C. acknowledges support for his laboratory from the Suh Kyungbae Foundation, RDA Next-Generation BioGreen 21 Program PJ01337001 and NRF Basic Science Research Program NRF-2017R1D1AB03028374. We apologize to our peers whose studies could not be cited due to space limitations.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.KeyGeneWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Life SciencesPohang University of Science and TechnologyPohangRepublic of Korea

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