Natural Variation in TBP-ASSOCIATED FACTOR 4b Controls Meiotic Crossover and Germline Transcription in Arabidopsis.

Meiotic crossover frequency varies within genomes, which influences genetic diversity and adaptation. In turn, genetic variation within populations can act to modify crossover frequency in cis and trans. To identify genetic variation that controls meiotic crossover frequency, we screened Arabidopsis accessions using fluorescent recombination reporters. We mapped a genetic modifier of crossover frequency in Col × Bur populations of Arabidopsis to a premature stop codon within TBP-ASSOCIATED FACTOR 4b (TAF4b), which encodes a subunit of the RNA polymerase II general transcription factor TFIID. The Arabidopsis taf4b mutation is a rare variant found in the British Isles, originating in South-West Ireland. Using genetics, genomics, and immunocytology, we demonstrate a genome-wide decrease in taf4b crossovers, with strongest reduction in the sub-telomeric regions. Using RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) from purified meiocytes, we show that TAF4b expression is meiocyte enriched, whereas its paralog TAF4 is broadly expressed. Consistent with the role of TFIID in promoting gene expression, RNA-seq of wild-type and taf4b meiocytes identified widespread transcriptional changes, including in genes that regulate the meiotic cell cycle and recombination. Therefore, TAF4b duplication is associated with acquisition of meiocyte-specific expression and promotion of germline transcription, which act directly or indirectly to elevate crossovers. This identifies a novel mode of meiotic recombination control via a general transcription factor.