The 5′-3′ exonuclease Exo1p from Saccharomyces cerevisiae is required for wild-type levels of meiotic crossing-over and normal meiotic chromosome segregation as is the meiosis-specific MutS homologue, Msh4p. Mutations in both genes reduce crossing-over by approximately two-fold, but Δmsh4 strains have significantly lower viability and a higher frequency of meiosis I non-disjunction. Epistasis analysis indicates a complex interaction between the two genes. Although crossing-over was not detectably lower in the double mutant, viability was significantly worse than either single mutant. Such a result suggests that the two genes are affecting meiotic viability by distinct mechanisms. We propose that Δexo1 affects chromosome segregation by reducing crossing-over, while Δmsh4 affects both the frequency and distribution of crossovers. Mutation in EXO1 reduces gene conversion frequencies significantly at some but not all loci, suggesting that other enzymes are also involved in DNA resection. We propose that Exo1p plays an early role in establishing some recombination intermediates by generating single-stranded tails. The role of Msh4p is suggested to be in determining whether some recombination intermediates are resolved as crossover events and in generating crossover interference. The synergistic effect of Δexo1Δmsh4 on spore viability suggests that the two genes have partially compensatory roles in a process affecting meiotic success.
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