Genetic Control of Hotspots

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Science  12 Feb 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5967, pp. 791-792
DOI: 10.1126/science.1187155

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With the exception of identical twins, individuals have different genetic makeup, which results from two key processes. During meiosis, maternal and paternal homologous chromosomes assort randomly to form daughter cells (gametes), thus generating different combinations of maternal and paternal chromosomes. Additional variation is generated by recombinations or crossovers, in which parts of homologous chromosomes are exchanged, resulting in a new combination of parental alleles. On pages 835, 836, and 876 of this issue, Parvanov et al. (1), Baudat et al. (2), and Myers et al. (3) report the identification of a mammalian gene—PR domain containing 9 (PRDM9)—that controls the extent to which crossovers occur in preferred chromosomal locations, known as “hotspots” (see the figure).