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Prdm9 Controls Activation of Mammalian Recombination Hotspots

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Science  12 Feb 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5967, pp. 835
DOI: 10.1126/science.1181495

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Homing in on Hotspots

The clustering of recombination in the genome, around locations known as hotspots, is associated with specific DNA motifs. Now, using a variety of techniques, three studies implicate a chromatin-modifying protein, the histone-methyltransferase PRDM9, as a major factor involved in human hotspots (see the Perspective by Cheung et al.). Parvanov et al. (p. 835, published online 31 December) mapped the locus in mice, and analyzed allelic variation in mice and humans, whereas Myers et al. (p. 876, published online 31 December) used a comparative analysis between human and chimpanzees to show that the recombination process leads to a self-destructive drive in which the very motifs that recruit hotspots are eliminated from our genome. Baudat et al. (p. 836, published online 31 December) took this analysis a step further to identify human allelic variants within Prdm9 that differed in the frequency at which they used hotspots. Furthermore, differential binding of this protein to different human alleles suggests that this protein interacts with specific DNA sequences. Thus, PDRM9 functions in the determination of recombination loci within the genome and may be a significant factor in the genomic differences between closely related species.

Abstract

Mammalian meiotic recombination, which preferentially occurs at specialized sites called hotspots, ensures the orderly segregation of meiotic chromosomes and creates genetic variation among offspring. A locus on mouse chromosome 17, which controls activation of recombination at multiple distant hotspots, has been mapped within a 181-kilobase interval, three of whose genes can be eliminated as candidates. The remaining gene, Prdm9, codes for a zinc finger containing histone H3K4 trimethylase that is expressed in early meiosis and whose deficiency results in sterility in both sexes. Mus musculus exhibits five alleles of Prdm9; human populations exhibit two predominant alleles and multiple minor alleles. The identification of Prdm9 as a protein regulating mammalian recombination hotspots initiates molecular studies of this important biological control system.

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