Distribution of Holliday junctions and repair forks during escherichia coli DNA double-strand break repair

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Accurate repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) is crucial for cell survival and genome integrity. In Escherichia coli, DSBs are repaired by homologous recombination (HR), using an undamaged sister chromosome as template. The DNA intermediates of this pathway are expected to be branched molecules that may include 4-way structures termed Holliday junctions (HJs), and 3-way structures such as D-loops and repair forks. Using a tool creating a site-specific, repairable DSB on only one of a pair of replicating sister chromosomes, we have determined how these branched DNA intermediates are distributed across a DNA region that is undergoing DSB repair. In cells, where branch migration and cleavage of HJs are limited by inactivation of the RuvABC complex, HJs and repair forks are principally accumulated within a distance of 12 kb from sites of recombination initiation, known as Chi, on each side of the engineered DSB. These branched DNA structures can even be detected in the region of DNA between the Chi sites flanking the DSB, a DNA segment not expected to be engaged in recombination initiation, and potentially degraded by RecBCD nuclease action. This is observed even in the absence of the branch migration and helicase activities of RuvAB, RadA, RecG, RecQ and PriA. The detection of full-length DNA fragments containing HJs in this central region implies that DSB repair can restore the two intact chromosomes, into which HJs can relocate prior to their resolution. The distribution of recombination intermediates across the 12kb region beyond Chi is altered in xonA, recJ and recQ mutants suggesting that, in the RecBCD pathway of DSB repair, exonuclease I stimulates the formation of repair forks and that RecJQ promotes strand-invasion at a distance from the recombination initiation sites.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1009717
Number of pages25
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2021


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