Homologous recombination is required for maintaining genomic integrity by functioning in high-fidelity repair of DNA double-strand breaks and other complex lesions, replication fork support, and meiotic chromosome segregation. Joint DNA molecules are key intermediates in recombination and their differential processing determines whether the genetic outcome is a crossover or non-crossover event. The Holliday model of recombination highlights the resolution of four-way DNA joint molecules, termed Holliday junctions, and the bacterial Holliday junction resolvase RuvC set the paradigm for the mechanism of crossover formation. In eukaryotes, much effort has been invested in identifying the eukaryotic equivalent of bacterial RuvC, leading to the discovery of a number of DNA endonucleases, including Mus81-Mms4/EME1, Slx1-Slx4/BTBD12/MUS312, XPF-ERCC1, and Yen1/GEN1. These nucleases exert different selectivity for various DNA joint molecules, including Holliday junctions. Their mutant phenotypes and distinct species-specific characteristics expose a surprisingly complex system of joint molecule processing. In an attempt to reconcile the biochemical and genetic data, we propose that nicked junctions constitute important in vivo recombination intermediates whose processing determines the efficiency and outcome (crossover/non-crossover) of homologous recombination.
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