Key decisions in the genetic shuffling that occurs before eggs or sperm are formed are made earlier than thought, rewriting textbook genetics, according to recent papers from researchers at UC Davis, Harvard University and UC San Diego.
For sexual reproduction to occur, organisms have to form gametes (in animals, gametes are eggs or sperm) with half the usual number of chromosomes, so that when two gametes fuse during fertilization the offspring will have an equal genetic contribution from each parent. This process is called meiosis: Without it, the chromosome number would double with every generation.
Meiosis includes a crucial step in which DNA is broken and either repaired by "crossing over" with another chromosome or healed without a crossover. Each pair of chromosomes must have at least one crossover for meiosis to work. New research shows that the decision to make a crossover or not is made much earlier than previously thought, and sheds light on the molecular basis of this process.
Andy Fell | UC Davis
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