Theses Doctoral

Timing is everything: The link between chromosomal mobility and homologous recombination

Joseph, Fraulin

Chromosomes are very dynamic structures that are constantly undergoing physical changes necessary for cell survival. Studies in yeast and metazoans have shown that chromosomal loci exhibit large-scale changes in mobility in response to DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). If left unrepaired, DSBs can lead to disease and even cell death. One of the predominant cellular pathways utilized to repair DSBs is homologous recombination (HR). DSB repair via HR requires a homologous DNA template to recover the missing genetic information lost at the break site. Our lab proposes that increased chromosome mobility (ICM) facilitates recombination by helping a broken chromosome successfully find its homolog. In support of this view, ICM is under the genetic control of the HR machinery and requires activation of the DNA damage checkpoint response. However, there is currently no consensus on the precise functional role of ICM in HR.

In Chapter 1, I describe in detail the known steps of DSB repair via the HR pathway, and discuss some of the important advancements made in the field of cell biology that has helped shape our understanding of HR. I highlight the use of in vivo cell imaging and fluorescently labeled DNA repair proteins during the study of HR. Additionally, I discuss some of the first studies that examined chromosome dynamics within the nucleus in live cells. Lastly, I describe the phenomenon of increased chromosome mobility and expand upon why it needs to be studied further.

In Chapter 2, I present in detail our method for measuring the pairing of DNA loci during HR at a site-specific DSB in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This method utilizes live cell imaging and a chromosome tagging system in diploid yeast to visualize homologous chromosomes during HR-mediated repair. Using this method, we demonstrate that in wild type (WT) cells, homologous chromosomes come together, repair and then move apart after repair is complete. Importantly, the kinetics we observe in the pairing of homologous chromosomes match the kinetics of site-specific DSB formation and the subsequent gene conversion of that site.

In Chapter 3, I describe our study that elucidates the relationship between ICM and multiple HR steps. We find a tight temporal correlation between the recruitment of the recombination proteins, ICM, the physical pairing of homologous loci, and gene conversion. Importantly, we can shift the timing of ICM by altering the initiation of DNA end resection - an early step in the HR process. Our data highlight the importance of DNA end resection as a vital precursor to ICM and demonstrate a strong temporal linkage between ICM and HR. Taken together our data support the claim that ICM is essential to HR and mechanistically involved in the process of DNA repair.

In Chapter 4, we explore chromosome mobility in response to different forms of DNA damage such as spontaneous DSBs, collapsed replication forks, and ionizing radiation (IR). We find that spontaneous DSBs and collapsed replication forks do not induce a change in chromosome mobility. However, exposure to ionizing radiation results in a robust increase in global chromosome mobility that is dependent on activation of the DNA damage checkpoint. Overall, these findings demonstrate how ICM is tightly regulated and highly dependent on the circumstances surrounding the formation of the DSB.

Lastly, in Chapter 5, I summarize all of my findings and discuss how they relate to one another with respect to the linkage between ICM and HR. I also provide a perspective on future experiments needed to advance the field. 


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Genetics and Development
Thesis Advisors
Rothstein, Rodney Joel
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 1, 2021