Understanding the mechanisms underlying DSB repair-induced mutagenesis at distant loci in yeast
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Increased mutagenesis is a hallmark of cancers. On the other hand, this can trigger the generation of polymorphisms and lead to evolution. Lately, it has become clear that one of the major sources of increased mutation rates in the genome is chromosomal break formation and repair. A variety of factors can contribute to the generation of breaks in the genome. A paradoxical source of breaks is the sequence composition of the genomic DNA itself. Eukaryotic and prokaryotic genomes contain sequence motifs capable of adopting secondary structures often found to be potent inducers of double strand breaks culminating into rearrangements. These regions are therefore termed fragile sequence motifs. Here, we demonstrate that in addition to being responsible for triggering chromosomal rearrangements, inverted repeats and GAA/TTC repeats are also potent sources of mutagenesis. Repeat-induced mutagenesis extends up to 8 kb on either side of the break point. Remarkably, error-prone repair of the break by Polζ reconstitutes the repeats making them a long term source of mutagenesis. Despite its negative connotations for genome stability, the mechanisms underlying the unstable nature of double strand break repair pathways are not known. Previous studies have demonstrated that break induced replication (BIR), a mechanism employed to repair broken chromosomes with only one repairable end, is highly mutagenic, undergoes frequent template switching and often yields half-crossovers. In the work presented here, we show that the instabilities inherent to BIR can be attributed to its unusual mode of synthesis. We determined that BIR proceeds via a migrating bubble with long stretches of single-stranded DNA and culminates with conservative inheritance of the newly synthesized DNA. We propose that the mechanisms described here might be important for generation of repair-associated mutagenesis in higher organisms. Secondary structure forming repeats like inverted repeats have been found to be enriched in cancer cells. These motifs often constitute chromosomal rearrangement hot-spots and demonstrate the phenomenon of kataegis. This study provides a mechanistic insight into how such breakage-prone motifs contribute to hypermutability of cancer genomes.