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Meiosis produces haploid gametes through a succession of chromosomal events including pairing, synapsis and recombination. Mechanisms that orchestrate these events remain poorly understood. We found that the SUMO-modification and ubiquitin-proteasome systems regulate the major events of meiotic prophase in mouse. Interdependent localization of SUMO, ubiquitin and proteasomes along chromosome axes was mediated largely by RNF212 and HEI10, two E3 ligases that are also essential for crossover recombination. RNF212-dependent SUMO conjugation effected a checkpoint-like process that stalls recombination by rendering the turnover of a subset of recombination factors dependent on HEI10-mediated ubiquitylation. We propose that SUMO conjugation establishes a precondition for designating crossover sites via selective protein stabilization. Thus, meiotic chromosome axes are hubs for regulated proteolysis via SUMO-dependent control of the ubiquitin-proteasome system.