Homologous recombination is a universal mechanism that allows repair of DNA and provides support for DNA replication. Homologous recombination is therefore a major pathway that suppresses non-homology-mediated genome instability. Here, we report that recovery of impeded replication forks by homologous recombination is error-prone. Using a fork-arrest-based assay in fission yeast, we demonstrate that a single collapsed fork can cause mutations and large-scale genomic changes, including deletions and translocations. Fork-arrest-induced gross chromosomal rearrangements are mediated by inappropriate ectopic recombination events at the site of collapsed forks. Inverted repeats near the site of fork collapse stimulate large-scale genomic changes up to 1,500 times over spontaneous events. We also show that the high accuracy of DNA replication during S-phase is impaired by impediments to fork progression, since fork-arrest-induced mutation is due to erroneous DNA synthesis during recovery of replication forks. The mutations caused are small insertions/duplications between short tandem repeats (micro-homology) indicative of replication slippage. Our data establish that collapsed forks, but not stalled forks, recovered by homologous recombination are prone to replication slippage. The inaccuracy of DNA synthesis does not rely on PCNA ubiquitination or trans-lesion-synthesis DNA polymerases, and it is not counteracted by mismatch repair. We propose that deletions/insertions, mediated by micro-homology, leading to copy number variations during replication stress may arise by progression of error-prone replication forks restarted by homologous recombination.
The appropriate transmission of genetic material during successive cell divisions requires the accurate duplication and segregation of parental DNA. The semi-conservative replication of chromosomes during S-phase is highly accurate and prevents accumulation of deleterious mutations. However, during each round of duplication, there are many impediments to the replication fork machinery that may hinder faithful chromosome duplication. Homologous recombination is a universal mechanism involved in the rescue of replication forks by rebuilding a replication apparatus at the fork (by mechanisms that are not yet understood). However, recombination can jeopardize genome stability because it allows genetic exchanges between homologous repeated sequences dispersed through the genome. In this study, we employ a fission yeast-based arrest of a single replication fork to investigate the consequences of replication fork arrest for genome stability. We report that a single blocked fork favours genomic deletions, translocations, and mutations; and this instability occurs during fork recovery by recombination. We also report that a single arrested fork that resumes its progression by recombination is prone to causing replication slippage mediated by micro-homology. We propose that deletions/duplications observed in human cancer cells suffering from replication stress can be viewed as scars left by error-prone replication forks restarted by recombination.