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<jats:p>During meiosis, homologous chromosomes pair and recombine, enabling balanced segregation and generating genetic diversity. In many vertebrates, double-strand breaks (DSBs) initiate recombination within hotspots where PRDM9 binds, and deposits H3K4me3 and H3K36me3. However, no protein(s) recognising this unique combination of histone marks have been identified. We identified <jats:italic>Zcwpw1</jats:italic>, containing H3K4me3 and H3K36me3 recognition domains, as having highly correlated expression with <jats:italic>Prdm9</jats:italic>. Here, we show that ZCWPW1 has co-evolved with PRDM9 and, in human cells, is strongly and specifically recruited to PRDM9 binding sites, with higher affinity than sites possessing H3K4me3 alone. Surprisingly, ZCWPW1 also recognises CpG dinucleotides. Male <jats:italic>Zcwpw1</jats:italic> knockout mice show completely normal DSB positioning, but persistent DMC1 foci, severe DSB repair and synapsis defects, and downstream sterility. Our findings suggest ZCWPW1 recognition of PRDM9-bound sites at DSB hotspots is critical for synapsis, and hence fertility.</jats:p>

Original publication




Journal article




eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd

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