Licensing MLH1 sites for crossover during meiosis

During meiosis, homologous chromosomes synapse and recombine at sites marked by the binding of the mismatch repair protein MLH1. In hexaploid wheat, the Ph1 locus has a major effect on whether crossover occurs between homologues or between related homoeologues. Here we report that—in wheat–rye hybrids where homologues are absent—Ph1 affects neither the level of synapsis nor the number of MLH1. Thus in the case of wheat–wild relative hybrids, Ph1 must affect whether MLH1 sites are able to progress to crossover. The observed level of synapsis implies that Ph1 functions to promote homologue pairing rather than suppress homoeologue pairing in wheat. Therefore, Ph1 stabilises polyploidy in wheat by both promoting homologue pairing and preventing MLH1 sites from becoming crossovers on paired homoeologues during meiosis.