Research Article

A DNA topoisomerase VI–like complex initiates meiotic recombination

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Science  26 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6276, pp. 939-943
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad5196

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A partner protein for meiotic snip

Eukaryotes generate germ cells through meiotic recombination. This process initiates through breaks in genomic DNA catalyzed by the SPO11 protein. Vrielynck et al. and Robert et al. discover that SPO11, like topoisomerase VI enzymes, interacts with a partner protein (see the Perspective by Bouuaert and Keeney). This partner is required for proper meiotic recombination and is found in a wide range of eukaryotes, suggesting that it is a universal feature of the essential recombination step.

Science, this issue p. 939, 943; see also p. 916


The SPO11 protein catalyzes the formation of meiotic DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) and is homologous to the A subunit of an archaeal topoisomerase (topo VI). Topo VI are heterotetrameric enzymes comprising two A and two B subunits; however, no topo VIB involved in meiotic recombination had been identified. We characterized a structural homolog of the archaeal topo VIB subunit [meiotic topoisomerase VIB–like (MTOPVIB)], which is essential for meiotic DSB formation. It forms a complex with the two Arabidopsis thaliana SPO11 orthologs required for meiotic DSB formation (SPO11-1 and SPO11-2) and is absolutely required for the formation of the SPO11-1/SPO11-2 heterodimer. These findings suggest that the catalytic core complex responsible for meiotic DSB formation in eukaryotes adopts a topo VI–like structure.

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