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Journal: DNA repair


Accurate DNA replication and DNA repair are crucial for the maintenance of genome stability, and it is generally accepted that failure of these processes is a major source of DNA damage in cells. Intriguingly, recent evidence suggests that DNA damage is more likely to occur at genomic loci with high transcriptional activity. Furthermore, loss of certain RNA processing factors in eukaryotic cells is associated with increased formation of co-transcriptional RNA:DNA hybrid structures known as R-loops, resulting in double-strand breaks (DSBs) and DNA damage. However, the molecular mechanisms by which R-loop structures ultimately lead to DNA breaks and genome instability is not well understood. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge about the formation, recognition and processing of RNA:DNA hybrids, and discuss possible mechanisms by which these structures contribute to DNA damage and genome instability in the cell.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Genetics, Cell nucleus, Bacteria, Organism, DNA replication


DNA helicases are molecular motors that harness the energy of nucleoside triphosphate hydrolysis to unwinding structured DNA molecules that must be resolved during cellular replication, DNA repair, recombination, and transcription. In vivo, DNA helicases are expected to encounter a wide spectrum of covalent DNA modifications to the sugar phosphate backbone or the nitrogenous bases; these modifications can be induced by endogenous biochemical processes or exposure to environmental agents. The frequency of lesion abundance can vary depending on the lesion type. Certain adducts such as oxidative base modifications can be quite numerous, and their effects can be helix-distorting or subtle perturbations to DNA structure. Helicase encounters with specific DNA lesions and more novel forms of DNA damage will be discussed. We will also review the battery of assays that have been used to characterize helicase-catalyzed unwinding of damaged DNA substrates. Characterization of the effects of specific DNA adducts on unwinding by various DNA repair and replication helicases has proven to be insightful for understanding mechanistic and biological aspects of helicase function in cellular DNA metabolism.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, DNA repair, DNA replication, Molecular motor, Helicase


Acylpeptide hydrolase (APEH) deacetylates N-alpha-acetylated peptides and selectively degrades oxidised proteins, but the biochemical pathways that are regulated by this protease are unknown. Here, we identify APEH as a component of the cellular response to DNA damage. Although APEH is primarily localised in the cytoplasm, we show that a sub-fraction of this enzyme is sequestered at sites of nuclear damage following UVA irradiation or following oxidative stress. We show that localization of APEH at sites of nuclear damage is mediated by direct interaction with XRCC1, a scaffold protein that accelerates the repair of DNA single-strand breaks. We show that APEH interacts with the amino-terminal domain of XRCC1, and that APEH facilitates both single-strand break repair and cell survival following exposure to H2O2 in human cells. These data identify APEH as a novel proteolytic component of the DNA damage response.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Cell nucleus, Cell, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme


DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) trigger a variety of cellular signaling processes, collectively termed the DNA-damage response (DDR), that are primarily regulated by protein kinase ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM). Among DDR activated processes, the repair of DSBs by non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) is essential. The proper coordination of NHEJ factors is mainly achieved through phosphorylation by an ATM-related kinase, the DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs), although the molecular basis for this regulation has yet to be fully elucidated. In this study we identify the major NHEJ DNA polymerase, DNA polymerase lambda (Polλ), as a target for both ATM and DNA-PKcs in human cells. We show that Polλ is efficiently phosphorylated by DNA-PKcs in vitro and predominantly by ATM after DSB induction with ionizing radiation (IR) in vivo. We identify threonine 204 (T204) as a main target for ATM/DNA-PKcs phosphorylation on human Polλ, and establish that its phosphorylation may facilitate the repair of a subset of IR-induced DSBs and the efficient Polλ-mediated gap-filling during NHEJ. Molecular evidence suggests that Polλ phosphorylation might favor Polλ interaction with the DNA-PK complex at DSBs. Altogether, our work provides the first demonstration of how Polλ is regulated by phosphorylation to connect with the NHEJ core machinery during DSB repair in human cells.

Concepts: DNA, Signal transduction, Adenosine triphosphate, DNA repair, Phosphorylation, DNA replication, Non-homologous end joining, DNA-PKcs


The ATM kinase plays critical roles in the response to DNA double-strand breaks, and can also be activated by prolonged DNA replication blocks. It has recently been proposed that replication stress-dependent ATM activation is mediated by ASCIZ (also known as ATMIN, ZNF822), an essential developmental transcription factor. In contrast, we show here that ATM activation, and phosphorylation of its substrates KAP1, p53 and H2AX in response to the replication blocking agent aphidicolin was unaffected in both immortalized and primary ASCIZ/ATMIN-deficient murine embryonic fibroblasts compared to control cells. Similar results were also obtained in human ASCIZ/ATMIN-deleted lymphoma cells. The results demonstrate that ASCIZ/ATMIN is dispensable for ATM activation, and contradict the previously reported dependence of ATM on ASCIZ/ATMIN.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Adenosine triphosphate, DNA repair, Transcription factor, DNA replication, P53


Maintenance of a genome requires DNA repair integrated with chromatin remodeling. We have analyzed six transcriptome data sets and one data set on translational regulation of known DNA repair and remodeling genes in synchronized human cells. These data are available through our new database: Genes that have similar transcription profiles in at least two of our data sets generally agree well with known protein profiles. In brief, long patch base excision repair (BER) is enriched for S phase genes, whereas short patch BER uses genes essentially equally expressed in all cell cycle phases. Furthermore, most genes related to DNA mismatch repair, Fanconi anemia and homologous recombination have their highest expression in the S phase. In contrast, genes specific for direct repair, nucleotide excision repair, as well as non-homologous end joining do not show cell cycle-related expression. Cell cycle regulated chromatin remodeling genes were most frequently confined to G1/S and S. These include e.g. genes for chromatin assembly factor 1 (CAF-1) major subunits CHAF1A and CHAF1B; the putative helicases HELLS and ATAD2 that both co-activate E2F transcription factors central in G1/S-transition and recruit DNA repair and chromatin-modifying proteins and DNA double strand break repair proteins; and RAD54L and RAD54B involved in double strand break repair. TOP2A was consistently most highly expressed in G2, but also expressed in late S phase, supporting a role in regulating entry into mitosis. Translational regulation complements transcriptional regulation and appears to be a relatively common cell cycle regulatory mechanism for DNA repair genes. Our results identify cell cycle phases in which different pathways have highest activity, and demonstrate that periodically expressed genes in a pathway are frequently co-expressed. Furthermore, the data suggest that S phase expression and over-expression of some multifunctional chromatin remodeling proteins may set up feedback loops driving cancer cell proliferation.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Genetics, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, DNA repair, Cell cycle


Genotoxic agents cause modifications of genomic DNA, such as alkylation, oxidation, bulky adduct formation, and strand breaks, which potentially induce mutations and changes to the structure or number of genes. Majority of point mutations are generated during error-prone bypass of modified nucleotides (translesion DNA synthesis, TLS); however, when TLS fails, replication forks stalled at lesions eventually result in more lethal effects, formation of double-stranded breaks (DSBs). Here we compared sensitivities to various compounds among mouse embryonic fibroblasts derived from wild-type and knock-out mice lacking one of the three Y-family TLS DNA polymerases (Polη, Polι, and Polκ) or all of them (TKO). The compounds tested in this study include genotoxins such as methyl methanesulfonate (MMS) and nongenotoxins such as ammonium chloride. We found that TKO cells exhibited the highest sensitivities to most of the tested genotoxins, but not to the non-genotoxins. In order to quantitatively evaluate the hypersensitivity of TKO cells to different chemicals, we calculated ratios of half-maximal inhibitory concentration for WT and TKO cells. The ratios for 9 out of 10 genotoxins ranged from 2.29 to 5.73, while those for 5 nongenotoxins ranged from 0.81 to 1.63. Additionally, the two markers for DNA damage, ubiquitylated proliferating cell nuclear antigen and γ-H2AX after MMS treatment, were accumulated in TKO cells more greatly than in WT cells. Furthermore, following MMS treatment, TKO cells exhibited increased frequency of sister chromatid exchange compared with WT cells. These results indicated that the hypersensitivity of TKO cells to genotoxins resulted from replication fork stalling and subsequent DNA double-strand breaks, thus demonstrating that TKO cells should be useful for evaluating chemical genotoxicity.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Mutation, Fibroblast, DNA repair, DNA replication, Mutagen


Proofreading and DNA repair are important factors in maintaining the high fidelity of genetic information during DNA replication. Herein, we designed a non-labeled and non-radio-isotopic simple method to measure proofreading. An oligonucleotide primer is annealed to a template DNA forming a mismatched site and is proofread by Klenow fragment of Escherichia coli DNA polymerase I (pol I) in the presence of all four dideoxyribonucleotide triphosphates. The proofreading excision products and re-synthesis products of single nucleotide extension are subjected to MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry (MS). The proofreading at the mismatched site is identified by the mass change of the primer. We examined proofreading of Klenow fragment with DNAs containing various base mismatches. Single mismatches at the primer terminus can be proofread efficiently. Internal single mismatches can also be proofread at different efficiencies, with the best correction for mismatches located 2-4-nucleotides from the primer terminus. For mismatches located 5-nucleotides from the primer terminus there was partial correction and extension. No significant proofreading was observed for mismatches located 6-9-nucleotides from the primer terminus. We also subjected primers containing 3' penultimate deoxyinosine (dI) lesions, which mimic endonuclease V nicked repair intermediates, to pol I repair assay. The results showed that T-I was a better substrate than G-I and A-I, however C-I was refractory to repair. The high resolution of MS results clearly demonstrated that all the penultimate T-I, G-I and A-I substrates had been excised last 2 dI-containing nucleotides by pol I before adding a correct ddNMP, however, pol I proofreading exonuclease tolerated the penultimate C-I mismatch allowing the primer to be extended by polymerase activity.

Concepts: DNA, Mass spectrometry, Base pair, DNA replication, DNA polymerase, DNA polymerase I, Polymerase, Primer


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) resides in close proximity to metabolic reactions, and is maintained by the 8-oxoguanine DNA glycosylase (Ogg1) and other members of the base excision repair pathway. Here, we tested the hypothesis that changes in liver metabolism as under fasting/feeding conditions would be sensed by liver mtDNA, and that Ogg1 deficient mice might unravel a metabolic phenotype. Wild type (WT) and ogg1-/- mice were either fed ad libitum or subjected to fasting for 24h, and the corresponding effects on liver gene expression, DNA damage, as well as serum values were analyzed. Ogg1 deficient mice fed ad libitum exhibited hyperglycemia, elevated insulin levels and higher liver glycogen content as well as increased accumulation of 8oxoG in mtDNA compared to age- and gender matched WT mice. Interestingly, these phenotypes were absent in ogg1-/- mice during fasting. Gene expression and functional analyses suggest that the diabetogenic phenotype in the ogg1-/- mice is due to a failure to suppress gluconeogensis in the fed state. The ogg1-/- mice exhibited reduced mitochondrial electron transport chain (ETC) capacity and a combined low activity of the pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH), alluding to inefficient channeling of glycolytic products into the citric acid cycle. Our data demonstrate a physiological role of base excision repair that goes beyond DNA maintenance, and implies that DNA repair is involved in regulating metabolism.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Bacteria, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Mitochondrion, DNA repair, Cellular respiration


Eukaryotic chromosome ends, or telomeres, are essential for genome stability and are protected by an intricate nucleoprotein assembly. Cdc13, the major single-strand telomere-binding protein in budding yeasts, mediates critical functions in both telomere protection and telomere elongation by telomerase. In particular, the interaction between S. cerevisiae Cdc13 and telomerase subunit Est1 has long served as a paradigm for telomerase regulation. However, despite extensive investigations, the role of this interaction in regulating telomerase recruitment or activation remains controversial. In addition, budding yeast telomere repeat sequences are extraordinarily variable and how Cdc13 orthologs recognize diverse repeats is not well understood. In this report, we examined these issues using an alternative model, K. lactis. We reconstituted a direct physical interaction between purified K. lactis Cdc13 and Est1, and by analyzing point mutations, we demonstrated a close correspondence between telomere maintenance defects in vivo and Cdc13-Est1 binding defects in vitro, thus supporting a purely recruitment function for this interaction in K. lactis. Because mutations in well aligned residues of Cdc13 and Est1 in S. cerevisiae and K. lactis do not cause identical defects, our results also point to significant evolutionary divergence in the Cdc13-Est1 interface. In addition, we found that K. lactic Cdc13, unlike previously characterized orthologs, recognizes an unusually long and non-G-rich target sequence, underscoring the flexibility of the Cdc13 DNA-binding domain. Analysis of K. lactis Cdc13 and Est1 thus broadens understanding of telomere and telomerase regulation in budding yeast.

Concepts: DNA, Evolution, Genome, Fungus, Yeast, Model organism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Telomere