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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. About one-fifth of maize genes are located in regions of highly reduced recombination rates. 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.

The goal of this project is to generate the first comprehensive, high-density map of recombination in maize. We will identify sites where recombination is initiated by formation of meiotic double-strand-breaks (DSBs) in chromosomal DNA as well as sites where recombination events are resolved into crossovers. This map will allow elucidation of how the distribution of recombination events is related to local genome and chromatin features and allow identification of factors that control the location and frequency of recombination events. This work will also further understanding of how recombination affects the structure of large and complex plant genomes.

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