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Meiotic recombination and DNA repair in Arabidopsis thaliana


Principal Investigator: Peter Schlögelhofer

We focus our research on meiotic recombination, mainly working with the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and to some extent with the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Our research efforts are well embedded in the Department of Chromosome Biology with five other groups performing meiosis research in various organisms.

Meiosis is a specialised, two-step cell division that ensures the reduction of the genome prior to the formation of generative cells. During meiosis, homologous centromeres are segregated during the first, and sister centromers during the second division. As there is no intervening DNA replication between the two meiotic divisions, each of the final division products contains only half of the initial DNA content. For a given diploid organism the developing generative cells are then haploid. It is important to note that, during meiosis, genetic information between maternal and paternal chromosomes is mutually exchanged, leading to novel combinations of genetic traits in the following generation. Two genetically diverse generative cells fuse during the process of fertilisation, re-establish the species-specific original genome content and constitute an individual with a unique genetic set-up.

Novel combinations between parts of paternal and maternal chromosomes are generated through the process of homologous recombination (HR). A pre-requisite for HR are DNA double strand breaks (DSBs), generated by a protein complex with the conserved protein SPO11 being its catalytically active subunit. DSBs are formed at non-random sites throughout the genome, known as hot spots of meiotic recombination. We are interested in 1) cis and trans acting factors that mediate meiotic DSB formation, 2) mechanisms of meiotic DSB processing, 3) the biochemical details of subsequent DSB repair and 4) the coordination of all these events. We use a broad range of techniques (molecular biology, cytology, biochemistry and genetics) and take advantage of the on-site facilities (Bio-optics, deep-sequencing, mass-spectrometry, bioinformatics).