Bennie B L G BB Lemmens, Nicholas M NM Johnson, Marcel M Tijsterman

Published:

Successful completion of meiosis requires the induction and faithful repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). DSBs can be repaired via homologous recombination (HR) or non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), yet only repair via HR can generate the interhomolog crossovers (COs) needed for meiotic chromosome segregation. Here we identify COM-1, the homolog of CtIP/Sae2/Ctp1, as a crucial regulator of DSB repair pathway choice during Caenorhabditis elegans gametogenesis. COM-1-deficient germ cells repair meiotic DSBs via the error-prone pathway NHEJ, resulting in a lack of COs, extensive chromosomal aggregation, and near-complete embryonic lethality. In contrast to its yeast counterparts, COM-1 is not required for Spo11 removal and initiation of meiotic DSB repair, but instead promotes meiotic recombination by counteracting the NHEJ complex Ku. In fact, animals defective for both COM-1 and Ku are viable and proficient in CO formation. Further genetic dissection revealed that COM-1 acts parallel to the nuclease EXO-1 to promote interhomolog HR at early pachytene stage of meiotic prophase and thereby safeguards timely CO formation. Both of these nucleases, however, are dispensable for RAD-51 recruitment at late pachytene stage, when homolog-independent repair pathways predominate, suggesting further redundancy and/or temporal regulation of DNA end resection during meiotic prophase. Collectively, our results uncover the potentially lethal properties of NHEJ during meiosis and identify a critical role for COM-1 in NHEJ inhibition and CO assurance in germ cells.