1 February 2018

High and low temperatures increase class I meiotic crossovers in Arabidopsis

Meiotic recombination shuffles genetic information from sexual species into gametes to create novel combinations in offspring. Thus, recombination is an important factor in inheritance, adaptation and responses to selection. However, recombination is not a static parameter; meiotic recombination rate is sensitive to variation in the environment, especially temperature. That recombination rates change in response to both increases and decreases in temperature was reported in Drosophila a century ago, and since then in several other species. But it is still unclear what the underlying mechanism is, and whether low and high temperature effects are mechanistically equivalent. Here we show that, as in Drosophila, both high and low temperatures increase meiotic crossovers in Arabidopsis thaliana. We show that, from a nadir at 18C, both lower and higher temperatures increase recombination through additional class I – interfering – crossovers. The increase in crossovers at high and low temperatures however appears to be mechanistically at least somewhat distinct, as they differ in their association with the DNA repair protein MLH1. We also find that, in contrast to what has been reported in barley, synaptonemal complex length is negatively correlated with temperature; thus, an increase in chromosome axis length may account for increased crossovers at low temperature in A. thaliana, but cannot explain the increased crossovers observed at high temperature. The plasticity of recombination has important implications for evolution and breeding, and also for interpreting observations of recombination rate variation among natural populations.

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