PerspectiveMolecular Biology

Hitting a Tiny Target in the Dark

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Science  18 Feb 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6019, pp. 870-871
DOI: 10.1126/science.1202373

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The success of sexual reproduction in mammals depends on segregation of the male sex chromosomes, X and Y, during the cell division process that produces gametes (meiosis). This requires that in male germ cells, the X and Y chromosomes reliably pair and exchange genetic material (1). This process, known as recombination or crossing-over, serves to physically interlock homologous chromosomes and ensure their proper segregation during the first meiotic cell division. Failure of X-Y recombination has dire consequences—either germ cell death or X-Y missegregation (1, 2). On page 916 (3) of this issue, Kauppi et al. identify multiple mechanisms that ensure efficient X-Y pairing and recombination during meiosis in the mouse. The processes that underlie these recombination events are distinct from those governing crossing-over on the other non–sex-determining chromosomes (autosomes) and play important roles in integrating the Y chromosome into a successful meiotic program.