Meiotic recombination is the process by which genetic information is exchanged between paired chromosomes during gamete formation. This exchange is central to reproductive success and the generation of genetic variation, thereby providing the raw material for evolutionary change. If recombination goes awry, gametes can be formed with missing or extra copies of genetic information. Such chromosomal errors are the leading genetic cause of fetal loss, mental impairment, and developmental disability in humans. The number and location of recombination events varies within and among species for largely unknown reasons. This project will examine what determines variation in the frequency and chromosomal region of recombination events. Educational efforts associated with this research provide training in genetics and bioinformatics for students belonging to under-represented groups at different grade levels.
One goal of the project is to determine the nature, extent, and genetic basis of intra- and inter-specific variation in the distribution of meiotic recombination events along a chromosome using a combination of classical genetics and next generation sequencing. Computer simulations will be used to determine the consequences of this spatial variation in the distribution of recombination events for patterns of genetic variation within and between species. Finally, bioinformatics approaches will be used to determine how crossover distribution changes in response to natural selection. Broader impacts of this work include training of students and a postdoc, broad dissemination of the results, generating recombination data that will be valuable to the community, and working with the NC Museum of Natural Science to communicate our work to the public.