Crossover Heterogeneity in the Absence of Hotspots in Caenorhabditis elegans
Taniya Kaur, Matthew V. Rockman


Crossovers play mechanical roles in meiotic chromosome segregation, generate genetic diversity by producing new allelic combinations, and facilitate evolution by decoupling linked alleles. In almost every species studied to date, crossover distributions are dramatically nonuniform, differing among sexes and across genomes, with spatial variation in crossover rates on scales from whole chromosomes to sub-kilobase hotspots. In order to understand the regulatory forces dictating these heterogeneous distributions a crucial first step is the fine-scale characterization of crossover distributions. Here we define the wild-type distribution of crossovers along a region of the Caenorhabditis elegans chromosome II at unprecedented resolution, using recombinant chromosomes of 243 hermaphrodites and 226 males. We find that well-characterized large-scale domains, with little fine-scale rate heterogeneity, dominate this region's crossover landscape. Using the Gini coefficient as a summary statistic, we find that this region of the C. elegans genome has the least heterogeneous fine-scale crossover distribution yet observed among model organisms, and we show by simulation that the data are incompatible with a mammalian-type hotspot-rich landscape. The large-scale structural domains – the low-recombination center and the high-recombination arm – have a discrete boundary that we localize to a small region. This boundary coincides with the arm-center boundary defined both by nuclear-envelope attachment of DNA in somatic cells and GC content, consistent with proposals that these features of chromosome organization may be mechanical causes and evolutionary consequences of crossover recombination.

  • Received July 29, 2013.
  • Accepted October 21, 2013.