A molecular switch for times of replication stress - Chromatin Assembly Factor 1 helps to protect DNA during recombination-mediated template-switching, favoring the rescue of stalled replication forks by both beneficial and detrimental homologous recombination events.
At blocked replication forks, homologous recombination mediates the nascent strands to switch template in order to ensure replication restart, but faulty template switches underlie genome rearrangements in cancer cells and genomic disorders. Recombination occurs within DNA packaged into chromatin that must first be relaxed and then restored when recombination is completed. The chromatin assembly factor 1, CAF-1, is a histone H3-H4 chaperone involved in DNA synthesis-coupled chromatin assembly during DNA replication and DNA repair. We reveal a novel chromatin factor-dependent step during replication-coupled DNA repair: Fission yeast CAF-1 promotes Rad51-dependent template switches at replication forks, independently of the postreplication repair pathway. We used a physical assay that allows the analysis of the individual steps of template switch, from the recruitment of recombination factors to the formation of joint molecules, combined with a quantitative measure of the resulting rearrangements. We reveal functional and physical interplays between CAF-1 and the RecQ-helicase Rqh1, the BLM homologue, mutations in which cause Bloom's syndrome, a human disease associating genome instability with cancer predisposition. We establish that CAF-1 promotes template switch by counteracting D-loop disassembly by Rqh1. Consequently, the likelihood of faulty template switches is controlled by antagonistic activities of CAF-1 and Rqh1 in the stability of the D-loop. D-loop stabilization requires the ability of CAF-1 to interact with PCNA and is thus linked to the DNA synthesis step. We propose that CAF-1 plays a regulatory role during template switch by assembling chromatin on the D-loop and thereby impacting the resolution of the D-loop.
Obstacles to the progression of DNA replication forks can result in genome rearrangements that are often observed in cancer cells and genomic disorders. Homologous recombination is a mechanism of restarting stalled replication fork that involves synthesis of the new DNA strands switching templates to a second (allelic) copy of the DNA sequence. However, the new strands can also occasionally recombine with nonallelic repeats (distinct regions of the genome that resemble the correct one) and thereby cause the inappropriate fusion of normally distant DNA segments; this is known as faulty template switching. The chromatin assembly factor 1 (CAF-1) is already known to be involved in depositing nucleosomes on DNA during DNA replication and repair. We have found that CAF-1 is also involved in the recombination-mediated template switch pathway in response to replication stress. Using both genetic and physical assays that allow the different steps of template switch to be analyzed, we reveal that CAF-1 protects recombination intermediates from disassembly by the RecQ-type helicase Rqh1, the homologue of BLM (people with mutations that affect BLM have Bloom's syndrome, an inherited predisposition to genome instability and cancer). Consequently, the likelihood of faulty template switch is controlled by the antagonistic activities of CAF-1 and Rqh1. We thus identified an evolutionarily conserved interplay between CAF-1 and RecQ-type helicases that helps to maintain genome stability in the face of replication stress.