Successful meiotic recombination, and thus fertility, depends on conserved axis proteins that organize chromosomes into arrays of anchored chromatin loops and provide a protected environment for DNA exchange. Here, we show that the stereotypic chromosomal distribution of axis proteins in Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the additive result of two independent pathways: a cohesin-dependent pathway, which was previously identified and mediates focal enrichment of axis proteins at gene ends, and a parallel cohesin-independent pathway that recruits axis proteins to broad genomic islands with high gene density. These islands exhibit elevated markers of crossover recombination as well as increased nucleosome density, which we show is a direct consequence of the underlying DNA sequence. A predicted PHD domain in the center of the axis factor Hop1 specifically mediates cohesin-independent axis recruitment. Intriguingly, other chromosome organizers, including cohesin, condensin, and topoisomerases, are differentially depleted from the same regions even in non-meiotic cells, indicating that these DNA sequence-defined chromatin islands exert a general influence on the patterning of chromosome structure.
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