Meiotic recombination requires the action of several gene products in both Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Drosophila melanogaster. Genetic studies in D. melanogaster have shown that the mei-W68 gene is required for all meiotic gene conversion and crossing-over. We cloned mei-W68 using a new genetic mapping method in which P elements are used to promote crossing-over at their insertion sites. This resulted in the high-resolution mapping of mei-W68 to a <18-kb region that contains a homolog of the S. cerevisiae spo11 gene. Molecular analysis of several mutants confirmed that mei-W68 encodes an spo11 homolog. Spo11 and MEI-W68 are members of a family of proteins similar to a novel type II topoisomerase. On the basis of this and other lines of evidence, Spo11 has been proposed to be the enzymatic activity that creates the double-strand breaks needed to initiate meiotic recombination. This raises the possibility that recombination in Drosophila is also initiated by double-strand breaks. Although these homologous genes are required absolutely for recombination in both species, their roles differ in other respects. In contrast to spo11, mei-W68 is not required for synaptonemal complex formation and does have a mitotic role.