Multiple mechanisms limit meiotic crossovers: TOP3α and two BLM homologs antagonize crossovers in parallel to FANCM
Meiotic crossovers (COs) have two important roles, shuffling genetic information and ensuring proper chromosome segregation. Despite their importance and a large excess of precursors (i.e., DNA double-strand breaks, DSBs), the number of COs is tightly regulated, typically one to three per chromosome pair. The mechanisms ensuring that most DSBs are repaired as non-COs and the evolutionary forces imposing this constraint are poorly understood. Here we identified Topoisomerase3α (TOP3α) and the RECQ4 helicases-the Arabidopsis slow growth suppressor 1 (Sgs1)/Bloom syndrome protein (BLM) homologs-as major barriers to meiotic CO formation. First, the characterization of a specific TOP3α mutant allele revealed that, in addition to its role in DNA repair, this topoisomerase antagonizes CO formation. Further, we found that RECQ4A and RECQ4B constitute the strongest meiotic anti-CO activity identified to date, their concomitant depletion leading to a sixfold increase in CO frequency. In both top3α and recq4ab mutants, DSB number is unaffected, and extra COs arise from a normally minor pathway. Finally, both TOP3α and RECQ4A/B act independently of the previously identified anti-CO Fanconi anemia of complementation group M (FANCM) helicase. This finding shows that several parallel pathways actively limit CO formation and suggests that the RECQA/B and FANCM helicases prevent COs by processing different substrates. Despite a ninefold increase in CO frequency, chromosome segregation was unaffected. This finding supports the idea that CO number is restricted not because of mechanical constraints but likely because of the long-term costs of recombination. Furthermore, this work demonstrates how manipulating a few genes holds great promise for increasing recombination frequency in plant-breeding programs.