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1.  Dual daughter strand incision is processive and increases the efficiency of DNA mismatch repair 
Nucleic Acids Research  2016;44(14):6770-6786.
DNA mismatch repair (MMR) is an evolutionarily-conserved process responsible for the repair of replication errors. In Escherichia coli, MMR is initiated by MutS and MutL, which activate MutH to incise transiently-hemimethylated GATC sites. MMR efficiency depends on the distribution of these GATC sites. To understand which molecular events determine repair efficiency, we quantitatively studied the effect of strand incision on unwinding and excision activity. The distance between mismatch and GATC site did not influence the strand incision rate, and an increase in the number of sites enhanced incision only to a minor extent. Two GATC sites were incised by the same activated MMR complex in a processive manner, with MutS, the closed form of MutL and MutH displaying different roles. Unwinding and strand excision were more efficient on a substrate with two nicks flanking the mismatch, as compared to substrates containing a single nick or two nicks on the same side of the mismatch. Introduction of multiple nicks by the human MutLα endonuclease also contributed to increased repair efficiency. Our data support a general model of prokaryotic and eukaryotic MMR in which, despite mechanistic differences, mismatch-activated complexes facilitate efficient repair by creating multiple daughter strand nicks.
PMCID: PMC5001592  PMID: 27174933
2.  MutS/MutL crystal structure reveals that the MutS sliding clamp loads MutL onto DNA 
eLife  null;4:e06744.
To avoid mutations in the genome, DNA replication is generally followed by DNA mismatch repair (MMR). MMR starts when a MutS homolog recognizes a mismatch and undergoes an ATP-dependent transformation to an elusive sliding clamp state. How this transient state promotes MutL homolog recruitment and activation of repair is unclear. Here we present a crystal structure of the MutS/MutL complex using a site-specifically crosslinked complex and examine how large conformational changes lead to activation of MutL. The structure captures MutS in the sliding clamp conformation, where tilting of the MutS subunits across each other pushes DNA into a new channel, and reorientation of the connector domain creates an interface for MutL with both MutS subunits. Our work explains how the sliding clamp promotes loading of MutL onto DNA, to activate downstream effectors. We thus elucidate a crucial mechanism that ensures that MMR is initiated only after detection of a DNA mismatch.
eLife digest
The genetic code of DNA is written using four letters: “A”, “C”, “T”, and “G”. Molecules of DNA form a double helix in which the letters in the two opposing strands pair up in a specific manner—“A” pairs with “T”, and “C” pairs with “G”. A cell must replicate its DNA before it divides, and sometimes the wrong DNA letter can get added into the new DNA strand. If left uncorrected, these mistakes accumulate over time and can eventually harm the cell. As a result, cells have evolved several ways to identify these mistakes and correct them, including one known as “mismatch repair”.
Mismatch repair occurs via several stages. The process starts when a protein called MutS comes across a site in the DNA where the letters are mismatched (for example, where an “A” is paired with a “C”, instead of a “T”). MutS can recognize such a mismatch, bind it, and then bind to another molecule called ATP. MutS then changes shape and encircles the DNA like a clamp that can slide along the DNA. Only when it forms this “sliding clamp” state can MutS recruit another protein called MutL. This activity in turn triggers a series of further events that ultimately correct the mismatch. However, it remains poorly understood how MutS forms a clamp around DNA and how and why this state recruits MutL in order to start the repair.
To visualize this short-lived intermediate, Groothuizen et al. trapped the relevant complex in the presence of DNA containing a mismatch and then used a technique called X-ray crystallography to determine the three-dimensional structure of MutS bound to MutL. The structure reveals that two copies of MutS tilt across each other and open up a channel, which is large enough to accommodate the DNA. In this manner, MutS is able to form a loose ring around the DNA. The changes in the structure and the movement of the DNA to the new channel were confirmed using another technique, commonly referred to as FRET.
Groothuizen et al. observed that the movements in the MutS protein also serve to make the interfaces available that can recognize MutL. If these interfaces were disturbed, MutS and MutL were unable to associate with each other, which resulted in a failure to trigger mismatch repair. Further analysis revealed that that MutL binds to DNA only after MutS has recognised the mismatch and formed a clamp around it. This is the first time that the MutS clamp and the MutS/MutL complex have been visualized, and further work is now needed to understand how MutL triggers other events that ultimately repair the mismatched DNA.
PMCID: PMC4521584  PMID: 26163658
DNA mismatch repair; Lynch syndrome; human; E. coli
3.  Is Thymidine Glycol Containing DNA a Substrate of E. coli DNA Mismatch Repair System? 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104963.
The DNA mismatch repair (MMR) system plays a crucial role in the prevention of replication errors and in the correction of some oxidative damages of DNA bases. In the present work the most abundant oxidized pyrimidine lesion, 5,6-dihydro-5,6-dihydroxythymidine (thymidine glycol, Tg) was tested for being recognized and processed by the E. coli MMR system, namely complex of MutS, MutL and MutH proteins. In a partially reconstituted MMR system with MutS-MutL-MutH proteins, G/Tg and A/Tg containing plasmids failed to provoke the incision of DNA. Tg residue in the 30-mer DNA duplex destabilized double helix due to stacking disruption with neighboring bases. However, such local structural changes are not important for E. coli MMR system to recognize this lesion. A lack of repair of Tg containing DNA could be due to a failure of MutS (a first acting protein of MMR system) to interact with modified DNA in a proper way. It was shown that Tg in DNA does not affect on ATPase activity of MutS. On the other hand, MutS binding affinities to DNA containing Tg in G/Tg and A/Tg pairs are lower than to DNA with a G/T mismatch and similar to canonical DNA. Peculiarities of MutS interaction with DNA was monitored by Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) and fluorescence anisotropy. Binding of MutS to Tg containing DNAs did not result in the formation of characteristic DNA kink. Nevertheless, MutS homodimer orientation on Tg-DNA is similar to that in the case of G/T-DNA. In contrast to G/T-DNA, neither G/Tg- nor A/Tg-DNA was able to stimulate ADP release from MutS better than canonical DNA. Thus, Tg residue in DNA is unlikely to be recognized or processed by the E. coli MMR system. Probably, the MutS transformation to active “sliding clamp” conformation on Tg-DNA is problematic.
PMCID: PMC4136841  PMID: 25133614
4.  Using stable MutS dimers and tetramers to quantitatively analyze DNA mismatch recognition and sliding clamp formation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(17):8166-8181.
The process of DNA mismatch repair is initiated when MutS recognizes mismatched DNA bases and starts the repair cascade. The Escherichia coli MutS protein exists in an equilibrium between dimers and tetramers, which has compromised biophysical analysis. To uncouple these states, we have generated stable dimers and tetramers, respectively. These proteins allowed kinetic analysis of DNA recognition and structural analysis of the full-length protein by X-ray crystallography and small angle X-ray scattering. Our structural data reveal that the tetramerization domains are flexible with respect to the body of the protein, resulting in mostly extended structures. Tetrameric MutS has a slow dissociation from DNA, which can be due to occasional bending over and binding DNA in its two binding sites. In contrast, the dimer dissociation is faster, primarily dependent on a combination of the type of mismatch and the flanking sequence. In the presence of ATP, we could distinguish two kinetic groups: DNA sequences where MutS forms sliding clamps and those where sliding clamps are not formed efficiently. Interestingly, this inability to undergo a conformational change rather than mismatch affinity is correlated with mismatch repair.
PMCID: PMC3783165  PMID: 23821665
5.  Site- and strand-specific nicking of DNA by fusion proteins derived from MutH and I-SceI or TALE repeats 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(7):e83.
Targeted genome engineering requires nucleases that introduce a highly specific double-strand break in the genome that is either processed by homology-directed repair in the presence of a homologous repair template or by non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) that usually results in insertions or deletions. The error-prone NHEJ can be efficiently suppressed by ‘nickases’ that produce a single-strand break rather than a double-strand break. Highly specific nickases have been produced by engineering of homing endonucleases and more recently by modifying zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) composed of a zinc finger array and the catalytic domain of the restriction endonuclease FokI. These ZF-nickases work as heterodimers in which one subunit has a catalytically inactive FokI domain. We present two different approaches to engineer highly specific nickases; both rely on the sequence-specific nicking activity of the DNA mismatch repair endonuclease MutH which we fused to a DNA-binding module, either a catalytically inactive variant of the homing endonuclease I-SceI or the DNA-binding domain of the TALE protein AvrBs4. The fusion proteins nick strand specifically a bipartite recognition sequence consisting of the MutH and the I-SceI or TALE recognition sequences, respectively, with a more than 1000-fold preference over a stand-alone MutH site. TALE–MutH is a programmable nickase.
PMCID: PMC3627573  PMID: 23408850
6.  Single-molecule multiparameter fluorescence spectroscopy reveals directional MutS binding to mismatched bases in DNA 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(12):5448-5464.
Mismatch repair (MMR) corrects replication errors such as mismatched bases and loops in DNA. The evolutionarily conserved dimeric MMR protein MutS recognizes mismatches by stacking a phenylalanine of one subunit against one base of the mismatched pair. In all crystal structures of G:T mismatch-bound MutS, phenylalanine is stacked against thymine. To explore whether these structures reflect directional mismatch recognition by MutS, we monitored the orientation of Escherichia coli MutS binding to mismatches by FRET and anisotropy with steady state, pre-steady state and single-molecule multiparameter fluorescence measurements in a solution. The results confirm that specifically bound MutS bends DNA at the mismatch. We found additional MutS–mismatch complexes with distinct conformations that may have functional relevance in MMR. The analysis of individual binding events reveal significant bias in MutS orientation on asymmetric mismatches (G:T versus T:G, A:C versus C:A), but not on symmetric mismatches (G:G). When MutS is blocked from binding a mismatch in the preferred orientation by positioning asymmetric mismatches near the ends of linear DNA substrates, its ability to authorize subsequent steps of MMR, such as MutH endonuclease activation, is almost abolished. These findings shed light on prerequisites for MutS interactions with other MMR proteins for repairing the appropriate DNA strand.
PMCID: PMC3384296  PMID: 22367846
7.  Identification of Lynch syndrome mutations in the MLH1-PMS2 interface that disturb dimerization and mismatch repair 
Human mutation  2010;31(8):975-982.
Missense alterations of the mismatch repair gene MLH1 have been identified in a significant proportion of individuals suspected of having Lynch syndrome, a hereditary syndrome which predisposes for cancer of colon and endometrium. The pathogenicity of many of these alterations, however, is unclear. A number of MLH1 alterations are located in the C-terminal domain (CTD) of MLH1, which is responsible for constitutive dimerization with PMS2. We analyzed which alterations may result in pathogenic effects due to interference with dimerization. We used a structural model of CTD of MLH1-PMS2 heterodimer to select 19 MLH1 alterations located inside and outside two candidate dimerization interfaces in the MLH1-CTD. Three alterations (p.Gln542Leu, p.Leu749Pro, p.Tyr750X) caused decreased co-expression of PMS2, which is unstable in the absence of interaction with MLH1, suggesting that these alterations interfere with dimerization. All three alterations are located within the dimerization interface suggested by our model. They also compromised mismatch repair, suggesting that defects in dimerization abrogate repair and confirming that all three alterations are pathogenic. Additionally, we provided biochemical evidence that four alterations with uncertain pathogenicity (p.Ala586Pro, p.Leu636Pro, p.Thr662Pro, and p.Arg755Trp) are deleterious because of poor expression or poor repair efficiency, and confirm the deleterious effect of eight further alterations.
PMCID: PMC2908215  PMID: 20533529
Lynch syndrome; HNPCC; MLH1; PMS2; MutL; missense mutation; dimerization
8.  Structure of the endonuclease domain of MutL: unlicensed to cut 
Molecular cell  2010;39(1):145-151.
DNA mismatch repair corrects errors that have escaped polymerase proofreading, increasing replication fidelity 100- to 1000-fold in organisms ranging from bacteria to humans. The MutL protein plays a central role in mismatch repair by coordinating multiple protein-protein interactions that signal strand removal upon mismatch recognition by MutS. Here we report the crystal structure of the endonuclease domain of Bacillus subtilis MutL. The structure is organized in dimerization and regulatory subdomains connected by a helical lever spanning the conserved endonuclease motif. Additional conserved motifs cluster around the lever and define a Zn2+-binding site that is critical for MutL function in vivo. The structure unveils a powerful inhibitory mechanism to prevent undesired DNA nicking and allows us to propose a model describing how the interaction with MutS and the processivity clamp could license the endonuclease activity of MutL. The structure also provides a molecular framework to propose and test additional roles of MutL in mismatch repair.
PMCID: PMC2933357  PMID: 20603082
DNA mismatch repair; MutL; endonuclease; HNPCC; β-clamp
9.  Native mass spectrometry provides direct evidence for DNA mismatch-induced regulation of asymmetric nucleotide binding in mismatch repair protein MutS 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(18):8052-8064.
The DNA mismatch repair protein MutS recognizes mispaired bases in DNA and initiates repair in an ATP-dependent manner. Understanding of the allosteric coupling between DNA mismatch recognition and two asymmetric nucleotide binding sites at opposing sides of the MutS dimer requires identification of the relevant MutS.mmDNA.nucleotide species. Here, we use native mass spectrometry to detect simultaneous DNA mismatch binding and asymmetric nucleotide binding to Escherichia coli MutS. To resolve the small differences between macromolecular species bound to different nucleotides, we developed a likelihood based algorithm capable to deconvolute the observed spectra into individual peaks. The obtained mass resolution resolves simultaneous binding of ADP and AMP.PNP to this ABC ATPase in the absence of DNA. Mismatched DNA regulates the asymmetry in the ATPase sites; we observe a stable DNA-bound state containing a single AMP.PNP cofactor. This is the first direct evidence for such a postulated mismatch repair intermediate, and showcases the potential of native MS analysis in detecting mechanistically relevant reaction intermediates.
PMCID: PMC3185415  PMID: 21737427
10.  The C-Terminal Domain of the MutL Homolog from Neisseria gonorrhoeae Forms an Inverted Homodimer 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13726.
The mismatch repair (MMR) pathway serves to maintain the integrity of the genome by removing mispaired bases from the newly synthesized strand. In E. coli, MutS, MutL and MutH coordinate to discriminate the daughter strand through a mechanism involving lack of methylation on the new strand. This facilitates the creation of a nick by MutH in the daughter strand to initiate mismatch repair. Many bacteria and eukaryotes, including humans, do not possess a homolog of MutH. Although the exact strategy for strand discrimination in these organisms is yet to be ascertained, the required nicking endonuclease activity is resident in the C-terminal domain of MutL. This activity is dependent on the integrity of a conserved metal binding motif. Unlike their eukaryotic counterparts, MutL in bacteria like Neisseria exist in the form of a homodimer. Even though this homodimer would possess two active sites, it still acts a nicking endonuclease. Here, we present the crystal structure of the C-terminal domain (CTD) of the MutL homolog of Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NgoL) determined to a resolution of 2.4 Å. The structure shows that the metal binding motif exists in a helical configuration and that four of the six conserved motifs in the MutL family, including the metal binding site, localize together to form a composite active site. NgoL-CTD exists in the form of an elongated inverted homodimer stabilized by a hydrophobic interface rich in leucines. The inverted arrangement places the two composite active sites in each subunit on opposite lateral sides of the homodimer. Such an arrangement raises the possibility that one of the active sites is occluded due to interaction of NgoL with other protein factors involved in MMR. The presentation of only one active site to substrate DNA will ensure that nicking of only one strand occurs to prevent inadvertent and deleterious double stranded cleavage.
PMCID: PMC2965676  PMID: 21060849
11.  Maintaining a sense of direction during long-range communication on DNA 
Biochemical Society Transactions  2010;38(Pt 2):404-409.
Many biological processes rely on the interaction of proteins with multiple DNA sites separated by thousands of base pairs. These long-range communication events can be driven by both the thermal motions of proteins and DNA, and directional protein motions that are rectified by ATP hydrolysis. The present review describes conflicting experiments that have sought to explain how the ATP-dependent Type III restriction–modification enzymes can cut DNA with two sites in an inverted repeat, but not DNA with two sites in direct repeat. We suggest that an ATPase activity may not automatically indicate a DNA translocase, but can alternatively indicate a molecular switch that triggers communication by thermally driven DNA sliding. The generality of this mechanism to other ATP-dependent communication processes such as mismatch repair is also discussed.
PMCID: PMC2860699  PMID: 20298192
ATPase; DNA sliding; helicase; mismatch repair; molecular switch; restriction–modification; AFM, atomic force microscopy; MMR, mismatch repair; RM, restriction–modification
12.  Physical and functional interactions between Escherichia coli MutL and the Vsr repair endonuclease 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(13):4453-4463.
DNA mismatch repair (MMR) and very-short patch (VSP) repair are two pathways involved in the repair of T:G mismatches. To learn about competition and cooperation between these two repair pathways, we analyzed the physical and functional interaction between MutL and Vsr using biophysical and biochemical methods. Analytical ultracentrifugation reveals a nucleotide-dependent interaction between Vsr and the N-terminal domain of MutL. Using chemical crosslinking, we mapped the interaction site of MutL for Vsr to a region between the N-terminal domains similar to that described before for the interaction between MutL and the strand discrimination endonuclease MutH of the MMR system. Competition between MutH and Vsr for binding to MutL resulted in inhibition of the mismatch-provoked MutS- and MutL-dependent activation of MutH, which explains the mutagenic effect of Vsr overexpression. Cooperation between MMR and VSP repair was demonstrated by the stimulation of the Vsr endonuclease in a MutS-, MutL- and ATP-hydrolysis-dependent manner, in agreement with the enhancement of VSP repair by MutS and MutL in vivo. These data suggest a mobile MutS–MutL complex in MMR signalling, that leaves the DNA mismatch prior to, or at the time of, activation of downstream effector molecules such as Vsr or MutH.
PMCID: PMC2715241  PMID: 19474347
13.  Mutations in the MutSα interaction interface of MLH1 can abolish DNA mismatch repair 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(22):6574-6586.
MutLα, a heterodimer of MLH1 and PMS2, plays a central role in human DNA mismatch repair. It interacts ATP-dependently with the mismatch detector MutSα and assembles and controls further repair enzymes. We tested if the interaction of MutLα with DNA-bound MutSα is impaired by cancer-associated mutations in MLH1, and identified one mutation (Ala128Pro) which abolished interaction as well as mismatch repair activity. Further examinations revealed three more residues whose mutation interfered with interaction. Homology modelling of MLH1 showed that all residues clustered in a small accessible surface patch, suggesting that the major interaction interface of MutLα for MutSα is located on the edge of an extensive β-sheet that backs the MLH1 ATP binding pocket. Bioinformatic analysis confirmed that this patch corresponds to a conserved potential protein–protein interaction interface which is present in both human MLH1 and its E.coli homologue MutL. MutL could be site-specifically crosslinked to MutS from this patch, confirming that the bacterial MutL–MutS complex is established by the corresponding interface in MutL. This is the first study that identifies the conserved major MutLα–MutSα interaction interface in MLH1 and demonstrates that mutations in this interface can affect interaction and mismatch repair, and thereby can also contribute to cancer development.
PMCID: PMC1747184  PMID: 17135187
14.  Structural and functional analysis of the MutS C-terminal tetramerization domain 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(18):5270-5279.
The Escherichia coli DNA mismatch repair (MMR) protein MutS is essential for the correction of DNA replication errors. In vitro, MutS exists in a dimer/tetramer equilibrium that is converted into a monomer/dimer equilibrium upon deletion of the C-terminal 53 amino acids. In vivo and in vitro data have shown that this C-terminal domain (CTD, residues 801–853) is critical for tetramerization and the function of MutS in MMR and anti-recombination. We report the expression, purification and analysis of the E.coli MutS-CTD. Secondary structure prediction and circular dichroism suggest that the CTD is folded, with an α-helical content of 30%. Based on sedimentation equilibrium and velocity analyses, MutS-CTD forms a tetramer of asymmetric shape. A single point mutation (D835R) abolishes tetramerization but not dimerization of both MutS-CTD and full-length MutS. Interestingly, the in vivo and in vitro MMR activity of MutSCF/D835R is diminished to a similar extent as a truncated MutS variant (MutS800, residues 1–800), which lacks the CTD. Moreover, the dimer-forming MutSCF/D835R has comparable DNA binding affinity with the tetramer-forming MutS, but is impaired in mismatch-dependent activation of MutH. Our data support the hypothesis that tetramerization of MutS is important but not essential for MutS function in MMR.
PMCID: PMC1636413  PMID: 17012287
15.  Identifying an interaction site between MutH and the C-terminal domain of MutL by crosslinking, affinity purification, chemical coding and mass spectrometry 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(10):3169-3180.
To investigate protein–protein interaction sites in the DNA mismatch repair system we developed a crosslinking/mass spectrometry technique employing a commercially available trifunctional crosslinker with a thiol-specific methanethiosulfonate group, a photoactivatable benzophenone moiety and a biotin affinity tag. The XACM approach combines photocrosslinking (X), in-solution digestion of the crosslinked mixtures, affinity purification via the biotin handle (A), chemical coding of the crosslinked products (C) followed by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry (M). We illustrate the feasibility of the method using a single-cysteine variant of the homodimeric DNA mismatch repair protein MutL. Moreover, we successfully applied this method to identify the photocrosslink formed between the single-cysteine MutH variant A223C, labeled with the trifunctional crosslinker in the C-terminal helix and its activator protein MutL. The identified crosslinked MutL-peptide maps to a conserved surface patch of the MutL C-terminal dimerization domain. These observations are substantiated by additional mutational and chemical crosslinking studies. Our results shed light on the potential structures of the MutL holoenzyme and the MutH–MutL–DNA complex.
PMCID: PMC1483222  PMID: 16772401
16.  Site-specific protein modification to identify the MutL interface of MutH 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(3):819-825.
We have mapped the region for the protein interaction site of the Escherichia coli mismatch repair protein MutH for its activator protein MutL by a site-specific protein modification approach. For this purpose we generated a cysteine-free variant of MutH and 12 variants thereof, each containing a single cysteine residue at surface positions selected on the basis of available structural and sequence information for MutH. All MutH variants displayed wild type activity both in vivo and in vitro. These variants were then site-specifically modified at their cysteine residues with thiol-specific reagents and then tested for their ability to be stimulated in their DNA cleavage activity by the activator protein MutL. Thereby we were able to identify a defined region in the MutH protein that is important for interaction with MutL, and most likely represents the MutL binding site of MutH.
PMCID: PMC149211  PMID: 12560476

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