Theses Doctoral

Mre11-Rad50-Xrs2 Complex in Coordinated Repair of DNA Double-Strand Break Ends from I-SceI, TALEN, and CRISPR-Cas9

Lee, So Jung

Maintenance of genomic integrity is essential for the survival of an organism and its ability to pass genetic information to its progeny. However, DNA is constantly exposed to exogenous and endogenous sources of damage, which demands cells to possess DNA repair mechanisms. Of the many forms of DNA damage, double-strand breaks (DSBs) are particularly cytotoxic DNA lesions that cause genome instability and cell lethality, but also provide opportunities to manipulate the genome via repair. One of the major DSB repair pathways shared between single-celled yeast and humans is homologous recombination (HR). HR is initiated by the evolutionarily conserved Mre11-Rad50-Xrs2/Nbs1 (MRX in yeast, MRN in mammals) complex. The MRX complex has a multitude of functions such as damage sensing, adduct removal from DSB ends, and end tethering – a process to maintain the two ends of a DSB in close proximity.

The role of the MRX complex has been uncovered by studying the repair of DSBs generated from meganucleases such as HO and I-SceI. However, it is unclear if this knowledge translates to the repair of DSBs from genome editing nucleases such as TALEN and CRISPR-Cas9 (Cas9), as these nucleases create DSBs with different end polarities. While the repair efficiencies and outcomes of TALEN and Cas9 are actively studied, less is known about the earlier stages of repair. The objective of this thesis is to examine the role of the MRX complex in repair processes at both ends of a DSB after cleavage with I-SceI, TALEN, and Cas9 in vivo using the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In Chapter 1, I describe the importance of DSB repair, a summary of HR and its sub-pathways, the functions of the MRX complex, and properties of I-SceI, TALEN, and Cas9. The materials and methods used in this thesis are detailed in Chapter 2.

The work described in Chapter 3 focuses on end tethering and recruitment of downstream repair proteins in haploid cells. I find that DSB ends from the three nucleases all depend on the MRX complex for end tethering, and that initial end polarity does not affect tethering. DSBs created by Cas9 show greater dependence on the Mre11 nuclease of the MRX complex for Rad52 recruitment compared to DSBs from I-SceI and TALEN. Despite Mre11-dependent end processing and Rad52 recruitment at Cas9-induced DSBs, Cas9 stays bound to one DNA end after cleavage, irrespective of the MRX complex. These results suggest that Mre11 exonuclease activity required for adduct removal from DSB ends is not critical for Rad52 recruitment, and that Mre11 endonuclease activity may be driving processing of Cas9-bound DSBs. I also find that MRX tethers DSB ends even after Rad52 recruitment, and unexpectedly, untethered ends are processed asymmetrically in the absence of MRX for all three nucleases.

In Chapter 4, I explore the interaction of DSB ends with their repair template, the intact homologous chromosome, in diploid cells. The primary goal is to monitor interhomolog contact in real time from homology search to completion of HR. Although technical limitations make it difficult to capture the entire HR program from DSB formation to repair, I show that untethered ends interact with the homolog separately in the absence of the MRX complex. Similar to haploids, diploid cells display defects in end tethering and end processing without the MRX complex. Repair outcomes of WT cells show an even distribution of G2 crossovers and non-crossovers, while pre-replication crossovers and break-induced replication are undetected. Overall, the results in this thesis provide insight into the functions of the MRX complex in repairing different DSB ends created by I-SceI, TALEN, and Cas9. In Chapter 5, I summarize all of these findings and discuss the motivation for future cell biology studies of HR.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Genetics and Development
Thesis Advisors
Rothstein, Rodney Joel
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 12, 2022