Meiosis in fission yeast has several unusual features. One is the presence of `linear elements' rather than synaptonemal complexes (SCs) on paired homologous chromosomes. These resemble the axial elements that appear prior to SCs in other organisms but lack the central region that connects chromosomes in the mature SC. Since little is known about the assembly and function of linear elements, Jürg Kohli and co-workers have studied their formation in a group of meiotic-recombination-deficient (rec) mutants,combining EM work with analyses of chromosome pairing in cells containing GFP-labelled chromosomes (see p. 1719). The authors find that linear elements can form in rec12 mutants, which cannot generate recombination-initiating double-stranded breaks (DSBs), but are significantly altered in rec8and rec11 mutants, which lack meiotic cohesins. Cohesion but not DSB formation is thus a prerequisite for efficient assembly of linear elements. Interestingly, Kohli and co-workers observe that rec10 mutants lack linear elements entirely. These cells exhibit normal sister chromatid cohesion but compromised homologous chromosome pairing away from the centromere. The authors therefore propose that linear elements promote pairing of interstitial arm regions of chromosomes but that alternative mechanisms underpin pairing elsewhere.