Replication fork stalling in WRN-deficient cells is overcome by prompt activation of a MUS81-dependent pathway.
ABSTRACT: Failure to stabilize and properly process stalled replication forks results in chromosome instability, which is a hallmark of cancer cells and several human genetic conditions that are characterized by cancer predisposition. Loss of WRN, a RecQ-like enzyme mutated in the cancer-prone disease Werner syndrome (WS), leads to rapid accumulation of double-strand breaks (DSBs) and proliferating cell nuclear antigen removal from chromatin upon DNA replication arrest. Knockdown of the MUS81 endonuclease in WRN-deficient cells completely prevents the accumulation of DSBs after fork stalling. Also, MUS81 knockdown in WS cells results in reduced chromatin recruitment of recombination enzymes, decreased yield of sister chromatid exchanges, and reduced survival after replication arrest. Thus, we provide novel evidence that WRN is required to avoid accumulation of DSBs and fork collapse after replication perturbation, and that prompt MUS81-dependent generation of DSBs is instrumental for recovery from hydroxyurea-mediated replication arrest under such pathological conditions.
Project description:Stabilization of stalled replication forks prevents excessive fork reversal or degradation, which can undermine genome integrity. The WRN protein is unique among the other human RecQ family members to possess exonuclease activity. However, the biological role of the WRN exonuclease is poorly defined. Recently, the WRN exonuclease has been linked to protection of stalled forks from degradation. Alternative processing of perturbed forks has been associated to chemoresistance of BRCA-deficient cancer cells. Thus, we used WRN exonuclease-deficiency as a model to investigate the fate of perturbed forks undergoing degradation, but in a BRCA wild-type condition. We find that, upon treatment with clinically-relevant nanomolar doses of the Topoisomerase I inhibitor camptothecin, loss of WRN exonuclease stimulates fork inactivation and accumulation of parental gaps, which engages RAD51. Such mechanism affects reinforcement of CHK1 phosphorylation and causes persistence of RAD51 during recovery from treatment. Notably, in WRN exonuclease-deficient cells, persistence of RAD51 correlates with elevated mitotic phosphorylation of MUS81 at Ser87, which is essential to prevent excessive mitotic abnormalities. Altogether, these findings indicate that aberrant fork degradation, in the presence of a wild-type RAD51 axis, stimulates RAD51-mediated post-replicative repair and engagement of the MUS81 complex to limit genome instability and cell death.
Project description:The WRN protein belongs to the RecQ family of DNA helicases and is implicated in replication fork restart, but how its function is regulated remains unknown. We show that WRN interacts with the 9.1.1 complex, one of the central factors of the replication checkpoint. This interaction is mediated by the binding of the RAD1 subunit to the N-terminal region of WRN and is instrumental for WRN relocalization in nuclear foci and its phosphorylation in response to replication arrest. We also find that ATR-dependent WRN phosphorylation depends on TopBP1, which is recruited by the 9.1.1 complex in response to replication arrest. Finally, we provide evidence for a cooperation between WRN and 9.1.1 complex in preventing accumulation of DNA breakage and maintaining genome integrity at naturally occurring replication fork stalling sites. Taken together, our data unveil a novel functional interplay between WRN helicase and the replication checkpoint, contributing to shed light into the molecular mechanism underlying the response to replication fork arrest.
Project description:Accurate response to replication arrest is crucial to preserve genome stability and requires both the ATR and ATM functions. The Werner syndrome protein (WRN) is implicated in the recovery of stalled replication forks, and although an ATR/ATM-dependent phosphorylation of WRN was observed after replication arrest, the function of such modifications during the response to perturbed replication is not yet appreciated. Here, we report that WRN is directly phosphorylated by ATR at multiple C-terminal S/TQ residues. Suppression of ATR-mediated phosphorylation of WRN prevents proper accumulation of WRN in nuclear foci, co-localisation with RPA and causes breakage of stalled forks. On the other hand, inhibition of ATM kinase activity or expression of an ATM-unphosphorylable WRN allele leads to retention of WRN in nuclear foci and impaired recruitment of RAD51 recombinase resulting in reduced viability after fork collapse. Altogether, our findings indicate that ATR and ATM promote recovery from perturbed replication by differently regulating WRN at defined moments of the response to replication fork arrest.
Project description:Most spontaneous DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) result from replication-fork breakage. Break-induced replication (BIR), a genome rearrangement-prone repair mechanism that requires the Pol32/POLD3 subunit of eukaryotic DNA Pol?, was proposed to repair broken forks, but how genome destabilization is avoided was unknown. We show that broken fork repair initially uses error-prone Pol32-dependent synthesis, but that mutagenic synthesis is limited to within a few kilobases from the break by Mus81 endonuclease and a converging fork. Mus81 suppresses template switches between both homologous sequences and diverged human Alu repetitive elements, highlighting its importance for stability of highly repetitive genomes. We propose that lack of a timely converging fork or Mus81 may propel genome instability observed in cancer.
Project description:In checkpoint-deficient cells, DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are produced during replication by the structure-specific endonuclease MUS81. The mechanism underlying MUS81-dependent cleavage, and the effect on chromosome integrity and viability of checkpoint deficient cells is only partly understood, especially in human cells. Here, we show that MUS81-induced DSBs are specifically triggered by CHK1 inhibition in a manner that is unrelated to the loss of RAD51, and does not involve formation of a RAD51 substrate. Indeed, CHK1 deficiency results in the formation of a RAD52-dependent structure that is cleaved by MUS81. Moreover, in CHK1-deficient cells depletion of RAD52, but not of MUS81, rescues chromosome instability observed after replication fork stalling. However, when RAD52 is down-regulated, recovery from replication stress requires MUS81, and loss of both these proteins results in massive cell death that can be suppressed by RAD51 depletion. Our findings reveal a novel RAD52/MUS81-dependent mechanism that promotes cell viability and genome integrity in checkpoint-deficient cells, and disclose the involvement of MUS81 to multiple processes after replication stress.
Project description:R loops arising during transcription induce genomic instability, but how cells respond to the R loop-associated genomic stress is still poorly understood. Here, we show that cells harboring high levels of R loops rely on the ATR kinase for survival. In response to aberrant R loop accumulation, the ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3-related (ATR)-Chk1 pathway is activated by R loop-induced reversed replication forks. In contrast to the activation of ATR by replication inhibitors, R loop-induced ATR activation requires the MUS81 endonuclease. ATR protects the genome from R loops by suppressing transcription-replication collisions, promoting replication fork recovery, and enforcing a G2/M cell-cycle arrest. Furthermore, ATR prevents excessive cleavage of reversed forks by MUS81, revealing a MUS81-triggered and ATR-mediated feedback loop that fine-tunes MUS81 activity at replication forks. These results suggest that ATR is a key sensor and suppressor of R loop-induced genomic instability, uncovering a signaling circuitry that safeguards the genome against R loops.
Project description:The MUS81 protein belongs to a conserved family of DNA structure-specific nucleases that play important roles in DNA replication and repair. Inactivation of the Mus81 gene in mice has no major deleterious consequences for embryonic development, although cancer susceptibility has been reported. We have investigated the role of MUS81 in human cells by acutely depleting the protein using shRNAs. We found that MUS81 depletion from human fibroblasts leads to accumulation of ssDNA and a constitutive DNA damage response that ultimately activates cellular senescence. Moreover, we show that MUS81 is required for efficient replication fork progression during an unperturbed S-phase, and for recovery of productive replication following replication stalling. These results demonstrate essential roles for the MUS81 nuclease in maintenance of replication fork integrity.
Project description:Werner's syndrome (WS) is a rare autosomal recessive disorder that arises as a consequence of mutations in a gene coding for a protein that is a member of RecQ family of DNA helicases, WRN. The cellular function of WRN is still unclear, but on the basis of the cellular phenotypes of WS and of RecQ yeast mutants, its possible role in controlling recombination and/or in maintenance of genomic integrity during S-phase has been envisaged. With the use of two drugs, camptothecin and hydroxyurea, which produce replication-associated DNA damage and/or inhibit replication fork progression, we find that WS cells have a slower rate of repair associated with DNA damage induced in the S-phase and a reduced induction of RAD51 foci. As a consequence, WS cells undergo apoptotic cell death more than normal cells, even if they arrest and resume DNA synthesis at an apparently normal rate. Furthermore, we report that WS cells show a higher background level of DNA strand breaks and an elevated spontaneous induction of RAD51 foci. Our findings support the hypothesis that WRN could be involved in the correct resolution of recombinational intermediates that arise from replication arrest due to either DNA damage or replication fork collapse.
Project description:Mus81 is a highly conserved substrate specific endonuclease. Human Mus81 cleaves Holliday junctions, replication forks, and 3' flap substrates in vitro, suggesting a number of possible in vivo functions. We show here that the abundance of human Mus81 peaks in S-phase and remains high in cells that have completed DNA replication and that Mus81 is a predominantly nuclear protein, with super accumulation in nucleoli. Two RecQ related DNA helicases BLM and WRN that are required for recombination repair in human cells colocalize with Mus81 in nucleoli. However, the nucleolar retention of Mus81 is not dependent on the presence of BLM or WRN, or on ongoing transcription. Mus81 is recruited to localized regions of UV damage in S-phase cells, but not in cells that are blocked from replicating DNA or that have completed replication. The retention of human Mus81 at regions of UV-induced damage specifically in S-phase cells suggest that the enzyme is recruited to the sites at which replication forks encounter damaged DNA. The nucleolar concentration of Mus81 suggests that it is required to repair problems that arise most frequently in the highly repetitive nucleolar DNA. Together these data support a role for Mus81 in recombination repair in higher eukaryotes.
Project description:Werner syndrome (WS) is an accelerated ageing disorder with genomic instability caused by WRN protein deficiency. Many features seen in WS can be explained by the diverse functions of WRN in DNA metabolism. However, the origin of the large genomic deletions and telomere fusions are not yet understood. Here, we report that WRN regulates the pathway choice between classical (c)- and alternative (alt)-nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) during DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair. It promotes c-NHEJ via helicase and exonuclease activities and inhibits alt-NHEJ using non-enzymatic functions. When WRN is recruited to the DSBs it suppresses the recruitment of MRE11 and CtIP, and protects the DSBs from 5' end resection. Moreover, knockdown of Wrn, alone or in combination with Trf2 in mouse embryonic fibroblasts results in increased telomere fusions, which were ablated by Ctip knockdown. We show that WRN regulates alt-NHEJ and shields DSBs from MRE11/CtIP-mediated resection to prevent large deletions and telomere fusions.