The Mre11/Rad50/Nbs1 (MRN) complex is required for eukaryotic DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair and meiotic recombination. We cloned the Coprinus cinereus rad50 gene and showed that it corresponds to the complementation group previously named rad12, identified mutations in 15 rad50 alleles, and mapped two of the mutations onto molecular models of Rad50 structure. We found that C. cinereus rad50 and mre11 mutants arrest in meiosis and that this arrest is Spo11 dependent. In addition, some rad50 alleles form inducible, Spo11-dependent Rad51 foci and therefore must be forming meiotic DSBs. Thus, we think it likely that arrest in both mre11-1 and the collection of rad50 mutants is the result of unrepaired or improperly processed DSBs in the genome and that Rad50 and Mre11 are dispensable in C. cinereus for DSB formation, but required for appropriate DSB processing. We found that the ability of rad50 mutant strains to form Rad51 foci correlates with their ability to promote synaptonemal complex formation and with levels of stable meiotic pairing and that partial pairing, recombination initiation, and synapsis occur in the absence of wild-type Rad50 catalytic domains. Examination of single- and double-mutant strains showed that a spo11 mutation that prevents DSB formation enhances axial element (AE) formation for rad50-4, an allele predicted to encode a protein with intact hook region and hook-proximal coiled coils, but not for rad50-1, an allele predicted to encode a severely truncated protein, or for rad50-5, which encodes a protein whose hook-proximal coiled-coil region is disrupted. Therefore, Rad50 has an essential structural role in the formation of AEs, separate from the DSB-processing activity of the MRN complex.