The Zip4 protein directly couples meiotic crossover formation to synaptonemal complex assembly
Meiotic recombination is triggered by programmed double-strand breaks (DSBs), a subset of these being repaired as crossovers, promoted by eight evolutionarily conserved proteins, named ZMM. Crossover formation is functionally linked to synaptonemal complex (SC) assembly between homologous chromosomes, but the underlying mechanism is unknown. Here we show that Ecm11, a SC central element protein, localizes on both DSB sites and sites that attach chromatin loops to the chromosome axis, which are the starting points of SC formation, in a way that strictly requires the ZMM protein Zip4. Furthermore, Zip4 directly interacts with Ecm11, and point mutants that specifically abolish this interaction lose Ecm11 binding to chromosomes and exhibit defective SC assembly. This can be partially rescued by artificially tethering interaction-defective Ecm11 to Zip4. Mechanistically, this direct connection ensuring SC assembly from CO sites could be a way for the meiotic cell to shut down further DSB formation once enough recombination sites have been selected for crossovers, thereby preventing excess crossovers. Finally, the mammalian ortholog of Zip4, TEX11, also interacts with the SC central element TEX12, suggesting a general mechanism.