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UBC Theses and Dissertations

RecQ-like helicase SGS1 counteracts DNA : RNA hybrid induced genome instability Novoa, Carolina


Dividing cells are constantly under threat from both endogenous and exogenous DNA damaging stresses that can lead to mutations and structural variations in DNA. One contributor to genome instability is three-stranded DNA:RNA hybrid structures called R-loops. Though R-loops are known to induce DNA damage and DNA replication stress, it is unclear whether they are recognized and processed by an established DNA repair pathway prior to inducing DNA breaks. Canonically, DNA repair proteins work downstream of R-loop-induced DNA damage to stimulate repair and suppress genome instability. Recently, the possibility that some DNA repair pathways actively destabilize R-loops, thus preventing unscheduled DNA damage has emerged. Here we identify the helicase SGS1 as a suppressor of R-loop stability. Our data reveals that SGS1 depleted cells accumulate R-loops. In addition, we define a role for transcription in genome instability of cells lacking SGS1, which is consistent with an R-loop based mechanism. Hyper-recombination in SGS1 mutants is dependent on transcript length, transcription rate, and active DNA replication. Also, rDNA instability in sgs1Δ can be suppressed by ectopic expression of RNaseH1, a protein that degrades DNA:RNA hybrids. Interestingly, R-loops are known to form at rDNA loci. We favour a model in which SGS1 contributes to the stabilization of stalled replication forks associated with transcription complexes, and unresolved DNA:RNA hybrids. Finally, we showed that knockdown of the human Sgs1 orthologue BLM in HCT116 cells also led to the accumulation of more R-loops than control HCT116 cells. In summary, our data supports the idea that some DNA repair proteins involved in replication fork stabilization might also prevent and process R-loops.

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