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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 maintenance of genomic stability is essential for cellular viability and the prevention of diseases such as cancer. Human single-stranded DNA-binding protein 1 (hSSB1) is a protein with roles in the stabilisation and restart of stalled DNA replication forks, as well as in the repair of oxidative DNA lesions and double-strand DNA breaks. In the latter process, phosphorylation of threonine 117 by the ATM kinase is required for hSSB1 stability and efficient DNA repair. The regulation of hSSB1 in other DNA repair pathways has however remained unclear. Here we report that hSSB1 is also directly phosphorylated by DNA-PK at serine residue 134. While this modification is largely suppressed in undamaged cells by PPP-family protein phosphatases, S134 phosphorylation is enhanced following the disruption of replication forks and promotes cellular survival. Together, these data thereby represent a novel mechanism for hSSB1 regulation following the inhibition of replication.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, DNA repair, Kinase, DNA replication


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


The Fragile X-related disorders (FXDs) are members of a large group of human neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions known as the Repeat Expansion Diseases. The mutation responsible for all of these diseases is an expansion in the size of a disease-specific tandem repeat tract. However, the underlying cause of this unusual mutation is unknown. Genome-wide association studies have identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the vicinity of the FAN1 (MIM* 613534) gene that are associated with variations in the age at onset of a number of Repeat Expansion Diseases. FAN1 is a nuclease that has both 5'-3' exonuclease and 5' flap endonuclease activities. Here we show in a model for the FXDs that Fan1-/- mice have expansions that, in some tissues including brain, are 2-3 times as extensive as they are in Fan1+/+ mice. However, no effect of the loss of FAN1 was apparent for germ line expansions. Thus, FAN1 plays an important role in protecting against somatic expansions but is either not involved in protecting against intergenerational repeat expansions or is redundant with other related enzymes. However, since loss of FAN1 results in increased expansions in brain and other somatic tissue, FAN1 polymorphisms may be important disease modifiers in those Repeat Expansion Diseases in which somatic expansion contributes to age at onset or disease severity.


The ATP-dependent chromatin remodeler CSB is implicated in a variety of different DNA repair mechanisms, including transcription-coupled nucleotide excision repair (TC-NER), base excision repair and DNA double strand break (DSB) repair. However, how CSB is regulated in these various repair processes is not well understood. Here we report that the first 30 amino acids of CSB along with two phosphorylation events on S10 and S158, previously reported to be required for CSB function in homologous recombination (HR)-mediated repair, are dispensable for repairing UV-induced DNA damage, suggesting that the regulation of CSB in these two types of repair are carried out by distinct mechanisms. In addition, we show that although the central ATPase domain of CSB is engaged in interactions with both the N- and C-terminal regions, these interactions are disrupted following UV-induced DNA damage. The UV-induced disengagement of the C-terminal region of CSB from the ATPase domain requires two conserved amino acids W1486 and L1488, which are thought to contribute to the hydrophobic core formation of the winged helix domain (WHD) at its C-terminus. Failure to undergo UV-induced dissociation of the C-terminal region of CSB from the ATPase domain is associated with impairment in its UV-induced chromatin association, its UV-induced post-translational modification as well as cell survival. Collectively, these findings suggest that UV-induced dissociation of CSB domain interactions is a necessary step in repairing UV-induced DNA damage and that the WHD of CSB plays a key role in this dissociation.


Prolonged replication arrest on damaged templates is a cause of fork collapse, potentially resulting in genome instability. Arrested replication is rescued by translesion DNA synthesis (TLS) and homologous recombination (HR)-mediated template switching. SPARTAN, a ubiquitin-PCNA-interacting regulator, regulates TLS via mechanisms incompletely understood. Here we show that SPARTAN promotes diversification of the chicken DT40 immunoglobulin-variable λ gene by facilitating TLS-mediated hypermutation and template switch-mediated gene-conversion, both induced by replication blocks at abasic sites. SPARTAN-/- and SPARTAN-/-/Polη-/-/Polζ-/- cells showed defective and similar decrease in hypermutation rates, as well as alterations in the mutation spectra, with decreased dG-to-dC transversions and increased dG-to-dA transitions. Strikingly, SPARTAN-/- cells also showed reduced template switch-mediated gene-conversion at the immunoglobulin locus, while being proficient in HR-mediated double strand break repair, and sister chromatid recombination. Notably, SPARTAN’s ubiquitin-binding zinc-finger 4 domain, but not the PCNA interacting peptide domain or its DNA-binding domain, was specifically required for the promotion of immunoglobulin gene-conversion, while all these three domains were shown to contribute similarly to TLS. In all, our results suggest that SPARTAN mediates TLS in concert with the Polη-Polζ pathway and that it facilitates HR-mediated template switching at a subset of stalled replication forks, potentially by interacting with unknown ubiquitinated proteins.


Classical non-homologous end-joining (cNHEJ) is the main pathway for the repair of DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) in mammalian cells. In the absence of c-NHEJ, an alternative end-joining (A-EJ) mechanism resolves DSBs. To date, no A-EJ specific factor has been identified. Instead, this mechanism appears to co-opt proteins involved in more than one DNA repair pathway. These include components of base-excision repair (PARP1/XRCC1/LIG3), interstrand cross-link repair (BRCA1/FANCD2), and DSB response/DNA end-resection (MRE11A/RAD50/RBBP8). To clarify the contribution of these factors to A-EJ, here we examined their expression and recruitment to DSBs in correlation with surrogates of cNHEJ (53BP1) and homologous recombination (RAD51) in cells deficient for the cNHEJ end-ligation component XRCC4. This revealed XRCC4-deficient cells exhibited marked increases in the stability of A-EJ transcripts that result in correspondingly elevated levels of associated proteins, in comparison to WT cells. RAD51 was also increased while 53BP1 was unaffected. Treatment with radiomimetic DSB-inducing drug doxorubicin did not influence these activities. However, FANCD2, BRCA1 and XRCC1 foci, prominently associated with 53BP1 foci and hence DSBs resolved by cNHEJ, were only detected in doxorubicin-treated XRCC4-deficient cells. Strikingly, treatment of XRCC4-deficient cells with the PARP-specific inhibitor Niraparib enhanced A-EJ, and substantially induced 53BP1 transcripts and the numbers of A-EJ-associated 53BP1 DNA damage foci. RAD51 was severely inhibited, and upstream cNHEJ (KU70/KU80/DNA-PKCs/ARTEMIS) transcripts were substantially induced. These latter results were recapitulated in BRCA1-deficient cells, which contrastingly did not affect 53BP1 or PARP1 status irrespective of doxorubicin or Niraparib treatment. Hence A-EJ is regulated transcriptionally, reduced by a higher turnover rate in cNHEJ-proficient cells and sustained but fine-tuned by PARP1 in XRCC4-deficient cells to promote DNA repair and survival. Upstream cNHEJ components are similarly transcriptionally down-modulated by PARP1 and BRCA1 in a manner inversely correlated with HR and mechanistically distinct from A-EJ respectively in cNHEJ-deficient and cNHEJ-proficient settings.