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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Suppression of genetic recombination in the pseudoautosomal region and at subtelomeres in mice with a hypomorphic Spo11 allele

Fatima Smagulova13, Kevin Brick2, Yongmei Pu1, Uttara Sengupta14, R Daniel Camerini-Otero2 and Galina V Petukhova1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD, USA

2 Genetics and Biochemistry Branch, National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA

3 Present address: Inserm UMR1085-Irset 263, ave du Général Leclerc, 35042, Rennes, France

4 Present address: Center for Investigative Proteomics, Northwick Park Institute for Medical Research, Northwick Park & St Mark’s Hospital, Harrow, Middlesex HA1 3UJ, England, UK

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:493  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-493

Published: 22 July 2013



Homologous recombination is the key process that generates genetic diversity and drives evolution. SPO11 protein triggers recombination by introducing DNA double stranded breaks at discreet areas of the genome called recombination hotspots. The hotspot locations are largely determined by the DNA binding specificity of the PRDM9 protein in human, mice and most other mammals. In budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisae, which lacks a Prdm9 gene, meiotic breaks are formed opportunistically in the regions of accessible chromatin, primarily at gene promoters. The genome-wide distribution of hotspots in this organism can be altered by tethering Spo11 protein to Gal4 recognition sequences in the strain expressing Spo11 attached to the DNA binding domain of the Gal4 transcription factor. To establish whether similar re-targeting of meiotic breaks can be achieved in PRDM9-containing organisms we have generated a Gal4BD-Spo11 mouse that expresses SPO11 protein joined to the DNA binding domain of yeast Gal4.


We have mapped the genome-wide distribution of the recombination initiation sites in the Gal4BD-Spo11 mice. More than two hundred of the hotspots in these mice were novel and were likely defined by Gal4BD, as the Gal4 consensus motif was clustered around the centers in these hotspots. Surprisingly, meiotic DNA breaks in the Gal4BD-Spo11 mice were significantly depleted near the ends of chromosomes. The effect is particularly striking at the pseudoautosomal region of the X and Y chromosomes – normally the hottest region in the genome.


Our data suggest that specific, yet-unidentified factors influence the initiation of meiotic recombination at subtelomeric chromosomal regions.

Homologous recombination; Recombination hotspots; SPO11; Subtelomeres; Double stranded DNA breaks