SciCombinator

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Concept: Holliday junction

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The mechanisms that allow to circumvent replicative stress, and to resume DNA synthesis are poorly understood in Bacillus subtilis. To study the role of the diadenylate cyclase DisA and branch migration translocase (BMT) RadA/Sms in restarting a stalled replication fork, we nicked and broke the circular chromosome of an inert mature haploid spore, damaged the bases, and measured survival of reviving spores. During undisturbed ripening, nicks and breaks should be repaired by pathways that do not invoke long-range end resection or genetic exchange by homologous recombination, after which DNA replication might be initiated. We found that DNA damage reduced the viability of spores that lacked DisA, BMT (RadA/Sms, RuvAB or RecG), the Holliday junction resolvase RecU, or the translesion synthesis DNA polymerases (PolY1 or PolY2). DisA and RadA/Sms, in concert with RuvAB, RecG, RecU, PolY1 or PolY2, are needed to bypass replication-blocking lesions. DisA, which binds to stalled or reversed forks, did not apparently affect initiation of PriA-dependent DNA replication in vitro. We propose that DisA is necessary to coordinate responses to replicative stress; it could help to circumvent damaged template bases that otherwise impede fork progression.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, DNA repair, Homologous recombination, DNA replication, DNA polymerase, DNA polymerase I, Holliday junction

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Although t-loops protect telomeres, they are at risk of cleavage by Holliday junction (HJ) resolvases if branch migration converts the three-way t-loop junction into four-way HJs. T-loop cleavage is repressed by the TRF2 basic domain, which binds three- and four-way junctions and protects HJs in vitro. By replacing the basic domain with bacterial-protein domains binding three- and four-way junctions, we demonstrated the in vivo relevance of branched-DNA binding. Branched-DNA binding also repressed PARP1, presumably by masking the PARP1 site in the t-loop junction. Although PARP1 recruits HJ resolvases and promotes t-loop cleavage, PARP1 activation alone did not result in t-loop cleavage, thus suggesting that the basic domain also prevents formation of HJs. Concordantly, removal of HJs by BLM helicase mitigated t-loop cleavage in response to loss of the basic domain. We propose that TRF2 masks and stabilizes the t-loop three-way junction, thereby protecting telomeres from detrimental deletions and PARP1 activation.

Concepts: DNA, In vivo, DNA replication, Telomerase, In vitro, Telomere, Protection, Holliday junction

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Bacillus subtilis c-di-AMP synthase DisA and RecA-related RadA/Sms are involved in the repair of DNA damage in exponentially growing cells. We provide genetic evidence that DisA or RadA/Sms is epistatic to the branch migration translocase (BMT) RecG and the Holliday junction (HJ) resolvase RecU in response to DNA damage. We provide genetic evidence damage. Functional DisA-YFP formed dynamic foci in exponentially growing cells, which moved through the nucleoids at a speed compatible with a DNA-scanning mode. DisA formed more static structures in the absence of RecU or RecG than in wild type cells, while dynamic foci were still observed in cells lacking the BMT RuvAB. Purified DisA synthesizes c-di-AMP, but interaction with RadA/Sms or with HJ DNA decreases DisA-mediated c-di-AMP synthesis. RadA/Sms-YFP also formed dynamic foci in growing cells, but the foci moved throughout the cells rather than just on the nucleoids, and co-localized rarely with DisA-YFP foci, suggesting that RadA/Sms and DisA interact only transiently in unperturbed conditions. Our data suggest a model in which DisA moving along dsDNA indicates absence of DNA damage/replication stress via normal c-di-AMP levels, while interaction with HJ DNA/halted forks leads to reduced c-di-AMP levels and an ensuing block in cell proliferation. RadA/Sms may be involved in modulating DisA activities.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Bacteria, Histone, Bacillus, Bacillus subtilis, Holliday junction

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Non-canonical DNA structures can obstruct transcription. This transcription blockage could have various biological consequences, including genomic instability and gratuitous transcription-coupled repair. Among potential structures causing transcription blockage are Holliday junctions (HJ), which can be generated as intermediates in homologous recombination or during processing of stalled replication forks. Of particular interest is the double Holliday junction (DHJ), which contains two HJs. Topological considerations impose the constraint that the total number of helical turns in the DNA duplexes between the junctions cannot be altered as long as the flanking DNA duplexes are intact. Thus, the DHJ structure should strongly resist transient unwinding during transcription; consequently, it is predicted to cause significantly stronger blockage than single HJ structures. The patterns of transcription blockage obtained for RNA polymerase II transcription in HeLa cell nuclear extracts were in accordance with this prediction. However, we did not detect transcription blockage with purified T7 phage RNA polymerase; we discuss a possible explanation for this difference. In general, our findings implicate naturally occurring Holliday junctions in transcription arrest.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Virus, RNA, Messenger RNA, RNA polymerase, Holliday junction

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Toehold-mediated DNA strand displacement is the fundamental basis for the construction and operation of diverse DNA devices, including circuits, machines, sensors, and reconfigurable structures. Controllable activation and regulation of toeholds are critical to construct devices with multistep, autonomous, and complex behaviors. A handful of unique toehold activation mechanisms, including toehold-exchange, associative toehold, and remote toehold, have been developed and are often combined to achieve desired strand displacement behaviors and functions. Here we report an allosteric DNA toehold (A-toehold) design that allows the flexible regulation of DNA strand displacement by splitting an input strand into an A-toehold and branch migration domain. Because of its simplicity, the A-toehold mechanism can be a useful addition to the current toolbox of DNA strand displacement techniques. We demonstrated that A-toehold enabled a number of interesting functions that were previously shown using more sophisticated DNA strand displacement systems, including 1) continuously tuning the rate of strand displacement, 2) dynamic control of strand displacement reactions, and 3) selective activation of multiple strand displacement reactions. Moreover, by combining A-toehold and toehold-exchange mechanisms, we have successfully constructed a non-covalent DNA catalysis network that resembles an allosteric enzyme.

Concepts: DNA, RNA, Chemical reaction, Molecule, Ribozyme, Addition, Multiplication, Holliday junction

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5-Hydroxymethylcytosine ((5hm)C) is an epigenetic marker that has recently been shown to promote homologous recombination (HR). In this study, we determine the effects of (5hm)C on the structure, thermodynamics, and conformational dynamics of the Holliday junction (the four-stranded DNA intermediate associated with HR) in its native stacked-X form. The hydroxymethyl and the control methyl substituents are placed in the context of an amphimorphic G(x)CC trinucleotide core sequence (where (x)C is C, (5hm)C, or the methylated (5m)C), which is part of a sequence also recognized to promote HR. The hydroxymethyl group of the (5hm)C junction adopts two distinct rotational conformations, with an in-base-plane form being dominant over the competing out-of-plane rotamer that has typically been seen in duplex structures. The in-plane rotamer is seen to be stabilized by a more stable intramolecular hydrogen bond to the junction backbone. Stabilizing hydrogen bonds (H-bonds) formed by the hydroxyl-substituent in the (5hm)C or from a bridging water in the (5m)C structure provide approximately 1.5 to 2 kcal/mol per interaction of stability to the junction, which is mostly offset by entropy compensation, thereby leaving the overall stability of the G(5hm)CC constructs similar to the GCC core. Thus, both methyl and hydroxymethyl modifications are accommodated without disrupting the structure or stability of the Holliday junction. Both (5hm)C and (5m)C are shown to open up the structure to make the junction core more accessible. The overall consequences of incorporating (5hm)C into a DNA junction are thus discussed in the context of the specificity in protein recognition of the hydroxymethyl substituent through direct and indirect readout mechanisms.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Oxygen, Genetics, Hydrogen, Homologous recombination, Hydrogen bond, Holliday junction

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The reactivation of stalled DNA replication via fork regression invokes Holliday junction formation, branch migration, and the recovery of the replication fork after DNA repair or error-free DNA synthesis. The coordination mechanism for these DNA structural transitions by molecular motors, however, remains unclear. Here we perform single-molecule fluorescence experiments with Werner syndrome protein (WRN) and model replication forks. The Holliday junction is readily formed once the lagging arm is unwound, and migrated unidirectionally with 3.2 ± 0.03 bases/s velocity. The recovery of the replication fork was controlled by branch migration reversal of WRN, resulting in repetitive fork regression. The Holliday junction formation, branch migration, and migration direction reversal are all ATP dependent, revealing that WRN uses the energy of ATP hydrolysis to actively coordinate the structural transitions of DNA.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Adenosine triphosphate, DNA replication, Molecular motor, Molecular genetics, Replication fork, Holliday junction

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Most bacterial organisms rely on homologous recombination to repair DNA double-strand breaks and for the post-replicative repair of DNA single-strand gaps. Homologous recombination can be divided into three steps: (i) a pre-synaptic step in which the DNA 3'-OH ends are processed, (ii) a recA-dependent synaptic step allowing the invasion of an intact copy and the formation of Holliday junctions, and (iii) a post-synaptic step consisting of migration and resolution of these junctions. Currently, little is known about factors involved in homologous recombination, especially for the post-synaptic step. In Escherichia coli, branch migration and resolution are performed by the RuvABC complex, but could also rely on the RecG helicase in a redundant manner. In this study, we show that recG and ruvABC are well-conserved among Streptomyces. ΔruvABC, ΔrecG and ΔruvABC ΔrecG mutant strains were constructed. ΔruvABC ΔrecG is only slightly affected by exposure to DNA damage (UV). We also show that conjugational recombination decreases in the absence of RuvABC and RecG, but that intra-chromosomal recombination is not affected. These data suggest that RuvABC and RecG are indeed involved in homologous recombination in S. ambofaciens and that alternative factors are able to take over Holliday junction in Streptomyces.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Bacteria, Evolution, DNA repair, Homologous recombination, Holliday junction

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DNA nanoassemblies have demonstrated wide applications in various fields including nanomaterials, drug delivery and biosensing. In DNA origami, single-stranded DNA template is shaped into desired nanostructure by DNA staples that form Holliday junctions with the template. Limited by current methodologies, however, mechanical properties of DNA origami structures have not been adequately characterized, which hinders further applications of these materials. Using laser tweezers, here, we have described two mechanical properties of DNA nanoassemblies represented by DNA nanotubes, DNA nanopyramids and DNA nanotiles. First, mechanical stability of DNA origami structures is determined by the effective density of Holliday junctions along a particular stress direction. Second, mechanical isomerization observed between two conformations of DNA nanotubes at 10-35 pN has been ascribed to the collective actions of individual Holliday junctions, which are only possible in DNA origami with rotational symmetric arrangements of Holliday junctions, such as those in DNA nanotubes. Our results indicate that Holliday junctions control mechanical behaviors of DNA nanoassemblies. Therefore, they can be considered as ‘mechanophores’ that sustain mechanical properties of origami nanoassemblies. The mechanical properties observed here provide insights for designing better DNA nanostructures. In addition, the unprecedented mechanical isomerization process brings new strategies for the development of nano-sensors and actuators.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Nanotechnology, Nanomaterials, DNA replication, DNA nanotechnology, Directionality, Holliday junction

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DNA strand displacement is a key reaction in DNA homologous recombination and DNA mismatch repair and is also heavily utilized in DNA-based computation and locomotion. Despite its ubiquity in science and engineering, sequence-dependent effects of displacement kinetics have not been extensively characterized. Here, we measured toehold-mediated strand displacement kinetics using single-molecule fluorescence in the presence of a single basepair mismatch. The apparent displacement rate varied significantly when the mismatch was introduced in the invading DNA strand. The rate generally decreased as the mismatch in the invader was encountered earlier in displacement. Our data indicate that a single base pair mismatch in the invader stalls branch migration and displacement occurs via direct dissociation of the destabilized incumbent strand from the substrate strand. We combined both branch migration and direct dissociation into a model, which we term the concurrent displacement model, and used the first passage time approach to quantitatively explain the salient features of the observed relationship. We also introduce the concept of splitting probabilities to justify that the concurrent model can be simplified into a three-step sequential model in the presence of an invader mismatch. We expect our model to become a powerful tool to design DNA-based reaction schemes with broad functionality.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Base pair, DNA repair, Nucleotide, Ethidium bromide, Holliday junction