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Understanding the landscape of meiotic recombination in maize

Recombination is the main source of genetic variation in higher eukaryotes; it facilitates adaptation, purges deleterious mutations from genomes and populations, and is a major determinant of genome architecture. In addition, recombination is utilized as an unparalleled instrument of plant breeding. However, despite its importance, little is known about factors that affect the distribution of recombination events in plants and other higher eukaryotes. Developing ways to increase recombination in these regions will allow utilizing higher numbers of allele combinations in maize breeding programs, leading to more efficient breeding.

Meiotic recombination is initiated by formation of programmed double-strand breaks (DSBs) in chromosomal DNA. Althogh several hundred DSBs are made in each meiotic cell, very few of them are repaired to produce chromosomal arm exchanges knonw as crossovers (COs).


We generated the first map of sites where recombination is initiated in the genome of a plant (maize) by formation of DSBs in chromosomal DNA. The map allows elucidation of how the distribution of recombination events is related to local genome and chromatin features and identification of factors controlling the location and frequency of DSBs.

We also produced a high-resolution CO map. Most COs in maize are near chromosome ends, , leaving about one-fifth of maize genes in regions of highly reduced CO rates. We are now elucidating specific factors that decide which recombination events become COs.


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