The COMPASS subunit Spp1 links histone methylation to initiation of meiotic recombination.
During meiosis, combinatorial associations of genetic traits arise from homologous recombination between parental chromosomes. Histone H3 lysine 4 trimethylation marks meiotic recombination hotspots in yeast and mammals, but how this ubiquitous chromatin modification relates to the initiation of double-strand breaks (DSBs) dependent on Spo11 remains unknown. Here, we show that the tethering of a PHD-containing protein, Spp1 (a component of the COMPASS complex), to recombinationally cold regions is sufficient to induce DSB formation. Furthermore, we found that Spp1 physically interacts with Mer2, a key protein of the differentiated chromosomal axis required for DSB formation. Thus, by interacting with H3K4me3 and Mer2, Spp1 promotes recruitment of potential meiotic DSB sites to the chromosomal axis, allowing Spo11 cleavage at nearby nucleosome-depleted regions.