Until the mid-1950s, it was believed that genetic crossovers did not occur within genes. Crossovers occurred between genes, the “beads on a string” model. Then in 1956, Seymour Benzer published his classic paper describing crossing over within a gene, intragenic recombination. This result from a bacteriophage gene prompted Oliver Nelson to study intragenic recombination in the maize Waxy locus. His studies along with subsequent work by others working with maize and other organisms described the outcomes of intragenic recombination and provided some of the earliest evidence that genes, not intergenic regions, were recombination hotspots. High-throughput genotyping approaches have since replaced single gene intragenic studies for characterizing the outcomes of recombination. These large-scale studies confirm that genes, or more generally genic regions, are the most active recombinogenic regions, and suggested a pattern of crossovers similar to the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In S. cerevisiae recombination is initiated by double-strand breaks (DSBs) near transcription start sites (TSSs) of genes producing a polarity gradient where crossovers preferentially resolve at the 5′ end of genes. Intragenic studies in maize yielded less evidence for either polarity or for DSBs near TSSs initiating recombination and in certain respects resembled Schizosaccharomyces pombe or mouse. These different perspectives highlight the need to draw upon the strengths of different approaches and caution against relying on a single model system or approach for understanding recombination.
- Double-strand breaks