A new study provides a mechanistic explanation of how ribonucleotides embedded in genomic DNA are recognized and removed from cells. Two mechanisms, enzymes called ribonucleases (RNases) H and the DNA mismatch repair system, appear to interplay to root out the RNA components.
“We believe this is the first study to show that cells utilize independent repair pathways to remove mispaired ribonucleotides embedded in chromosomal DNA, which can be sources of genetic modification if not removed,” said Francesca Storici, an assistant professor in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “The results also highlight a novel case of genetic redundancy, where the mismatch repair system and RNase H mechanisms compete with each other to remove misincorporated ribonucleotides and restore DNA integrity.”
The findings were reported Dec. 4, 2011 in the advance online publication of the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. The research was supported by the Georgia Cancer Coalition, National Science Foundation and Georgia Tech Integrative BioSystems Institute.
Storici and Georgia Tech biology graduate students Ying Shen and Kyung Duk Koh conducted the study in collaboration with Bernard Weiss, a professor emeritus in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Emory University.
“We wanted to understand how cells of the bacterium Escherichia coli and the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae tolerate the presence of different ribonucleotides embedded in their genomic DNA. We found that the structure of a ribonucleotide tract embedded in DNA influenced its ability to cause genetic mutations more than the tract’s length,” said Storici.
With double-stranded DNA, when wrong bases are paired or one or few nucleotides are in excess or missing on one of the strands, a mismatch is generated. If mismatches are not corrected, they can lead to mutations.
The researchers found that single mismatched ribonucleotides in chromosomal DNA were removed by either the mismatch repair system or RNase H type 2. Mismatched ribonucleotides in the middle of at least four other ribonucleotides required RNase H type 1 for removal.
“We were excited to find that a DNA repair mechanism like mismatch repair was activated by RNA/DNA mismatches and could remove ribonucleotides embedded in chromosomal DNA,” explained Storici. “In future studies, we plan to test whether other DNA repair mechanisms, such as nucleotide-excision repair and base-excision repair, can also locate and remove ribonucleotides in DNA.”
Using gene correction assays driven by short nucleic acid polymers called oligonucleotides, the researchers showed that when ribonucleotides embedded in DNA were not removed, they served as templates for DNA synthesis and produced a mutation in the DNA. If both the mismatch repair system and RNase H repair mechanisms are disabled, ribonucleotide-driven gene modification increased by a factor of 47 in the yeast and 77,000 in the bacterium.
Defects in the mismatch repair system are known to predispose a person to certain types of cancer. Because the mismatch repair system is conserved from unicellular to multicellular organisms, such as humans, this study’s findings open up the possibility that defects in the mismatch repair system could have consequences more critical than previously thought given the newly identified function of mismatch repair to target RNA/DNA mispairs.
The results also provide new information on the capacity of RNA to play an active role in DNA editing and remodeling, which could be the basis of an unexplored process of RNA-driven DNA evolution.
This project was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) (Award No. MCB-1021763). The content is solely the responsibility of the principal investigators and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NSF.Research News & Publications Office
Writer: Abby Robinson
John Toon | Newswise Science News
Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy