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Theses Doctoral

The Role of Eukaryotic Recombinase Loop L1 During Homologous Recombination

Steinfeld, Justin Benjamin

Within the life of an organism, its deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is constantly bombarded with damaging agents from exogenous and endogenous sources. One of the most deleterious types of damage is the double-stranded break (DSB) in which a continuous strand of DNA is broken in two. As a result, the information stored in their connection is lost. If improperly repaired, a cell will either not survive or transform into a neoplasm. Homologous recombination (HR) is a mechanism by which the cell processes these broken ends and uses proteins called recombinases to search for an undamaged homologous DNA template for repairing the break, the homology search. Generally for eukaryotes, the recombinase, Rad51, performs the homology search. Without it, cells cannot repair spontaneous DSBs by recombination and instead, must use alternative, less efficacious pathways. This type of reparative homologous recombination generally occurs during mitosis and is thus called mitotic recombination. In addition to its role in repair, HR is employed by eukaryotes during the first stage of meiosis to create crossover events, or chiasmata, between DNA homologs. The formation of these chiasmata is necessary for proper segregation of the chromosomes, preventing aneuploidy in the haploid cells destined for sexual reproduction. These crossover events have an added evolutionary benefit of mixing genes between the parental chromosomes, creating allelic diversity in the haploid cells. Eukaryotes have evolved a subset of meioticallyexpressed proteins to mediate this process. Dmc1 is a meiosis-specific, second recombinase that eukaryotes require to properly form these crossover events between homologs. It is not entirely understood why most eukaryotes require a second recombinase specifically designed for meiotic HR. A potential reason for this second recombinase may lie in the preferred templates for recombination that Rad51 and Dmc1 seek. Rad51 is employed mitotically to repair spontaneous DSBs and thus searches for the perfect undamaged copy, the sister chromatid, to prevent the loss of genetic information. Conversely, Dmc1 is employ meiotically to purposely form crossover events between homologs, which carry single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) between parental chromosomes. Thus, Dmc1 must be able to anneal DNA strands that aren’t perfectly the same. This work uses the single-molecule technique of DNA curtains to understand the factors that effect Rad51 and Dmc1 homologous DNA-capture stability. The first part of Chapter 1 is a historical exploration of homologous recombination research and a review of the current understanding of the pathway. The second part of Chapter 1 discusses human diseases that are associated with the failure to properly repair double-strand breaks. Chapter 2 will explain the single-molecule DNA curtain technique used throughout this work. Chapter 3 will show that Dmc1 is more tolerant of mismatches in captured DNA than Rad51. Chapter 4 will test the limits of Dmc1’s tolerance to imperfect DNA and attempts understand how it accomplishes this tolerance. Chapter 5 will demonstrate that this tolerance of mismatches is mediated by a specific structural element in recombinases, loop L1, and a chimeric Rad51 with a Dmc1-like L1 can tolerate mismatches in vitro and in vivo. Chapter 6 will explore how recombinase mediators such as BARD1 and BRCA1 enhance RAD51’s ability to capture DNA during the homology search.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Studies
Thesis Advisors
Greene, Eric C.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 5, 2018