The breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility protein BRCA1 is evolutionarily conserved and functions in DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair through homologous recombination, but its role in meiosis is poorly understood. By using genetic analysis, we investigated the role of the Caenorhabditis elegans BRCA1 orthologue (brc-1) during meiotic prophase. The null mutant in the brc-1 gene is viable, fertile and shows the wild-type complement of six bivalents in most diakinetic nuclei, which is indicative of successful crossover recombination. However, brc-1 mutants show an abnormal increase in apoptosis and RAD-51 foci at pachytene that are abolished by loss of spo-11 function, suggesting a defect in meiosis rather than during premeiotic DNA replication. In genetic backgrounds in which chiasma formation is abrogated, such as him-14/MSH4 and syp-2, loss of brc-1 leads to chromosome fragmentation suggesting that brc-1 is dispensable for crossing over but essential for DSB repair through inter-sister recombination.