Meiosis is the cellular program that underlies gamete formation. For this program, crossovers between homologous chromosomes play an essential mechanical role to ensure regular segregation. We present a detailed study of crossover formation in human male and female meiosis, enabled by modeling analysis. Results suggest that recombination in the two sexes proceeds analogously and efficiently through most stages. However, specifically in female (but not male), ∼25% of the intermediates that should mature into crossover products actually fail to do so. Further, this "female-specific crossover maturation inefficiency" is inferred to make major contributions to the high level of chromosome mis-segregation and resultant aneuploidy that uniquely afflicts human female oocytes (e.g., giving Down syndrome). Additionally, crossover levels on different chromosomes in the same nucleus tend to co-vary, an effect attributable to global per-nucleus modulation of chromatin loop size. Maturation inefficiency could potentially reflect an evolutionary advantage of increased aneuploidy for human females.
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