DMC1 is a meiosis-specific homolog of bacterial RecA and eukaryotic RAD51 that can catalyze homologous DNA strand invasion and D-loop formation in vitro. DMC1-deficient mice and yeast are sterile due to defective meiotic recombination and chromosome synapsis. The authors identified a male dominant sterile allele of Dmc1, Dmc1Mei11, encoding a missense mutation in the L2 DNA binding domain that abolishes strand invasion activity. Meiosis in male heterozygotes arrests in pachynema, characterized by incomplete chromosome synapsis and no crossing-over. Young heterozygous females have normal litter sizes despite having a decreased oocyte pool, a high incidence of meiosis I abnormalities, and susceptibility to premature ovarian failure. Dmc1Mei11 exposes a sex difference in recombination in that a significant portion of female oocytes can compensate for DMC1 deficiency to undergo crossing-over and complete gametogenesis. Importantly, these data demonstrate that dominant alleles of meiosis genes can arise and propagate in populations, causing infertility and other reproductive consequences due to meiotic prophase I defects.