crossing over

crossing over, process in genetics by which the two chromosomes of a homologous pair exchange equal segments with each other. Crossing over occurs in the first division of meiosis. At that stage each chromosome has replicated into two strands called sister chromatids. The two homologous chromosomes of a pair synapse, or come together. While the chromosomes are synapsed, breaks occur at corresponding points in two of the non-sister chromatids, i.e., in one chromatid of each chromosome. Since the chromosomes are homologous, breaks at corresponding points mean that the segments that are broken off contain corresponding genes, i.e., alleles. The broken sections are then exchanged between the chromosomes to form complete new units, and each new recombined chromosome of the pair can go to a different daughter sex cell. Crossing over results in recombination of genes found on the same chromosome, called linked genes, that would otherwise always be transmitted together. Because the frequency of crossing over between any two linked genes is proportional to the chromosomal distance between them, crossing over frequencies are used to construct genetic, or linkage, maps of genes on chromosomes. Mutations, temperature changes, and radiation all affect crossing over frequency. Under the microscope, a crossover has the appearance of an X and is called a chiasma.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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