Postprint version. Published in Current Biology, Volume 13, Issue 18, September 16, 2003, pages 1641-1647. Copyright © 2003 Elsevier. The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2003.08.026.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Kenneth Hillers was not yet affiliated with Cal Poly.
A central event in sexual reproduction is the reduction in chromosome number that occurs at the meiosis I division. Most eukaryotes rely on crossing over between homologs, and the resulting chiasmata, to direct meiosis I chromosome segregation, yet make very few crossovers per chromosome pair  and . This indicates that meiotic recombination must be tightly regulated to ensure that each chromosome pair enjoys the crossover necessary to ensure correct segregation. Here, we investigate control of meiotic crossing over in Caenorhabditis elegans, which averages only one crossover per chromosome pair per meiosis  and , by constructing genetic maps of end-to-end fusions of whole chromosomes. Fusion of chromosomes removes the requirement for a crossover in each component chromosome segment and thereby reveals a propensity to restrict the number of crossovers such that pairs of fusion chromosomes composed of two or even three whole chromosomes enjoy but a single crossover in the majority of meioses. This regulation can operate over physical distances encompassing half the genome. The meiotic behavior of heterozygous fusion chromosomes further suggests that continuous meiotic chromosome axes, or structures that depend on properly assembled axes, may be important for crossover regulation.