The S. cerevisiae mating type switch model of double-strand break (DSB) repair, utilizing the HO endonuclease, is one of the best studied systems for both Homologous Recombination Repair (HRR) and direct ends-joining repair (Non-Homologous Ends Joining - NHEJ). We have recently transposed that system to a mammalian cell culture model taking advantage of an adenovirus expressing HO and an integrated genomic target. This made it possible to compare directly the mechanism of repair between yeast and mammalian cells for the same type of induced DSB. Studies of DSB repair have emphasized commonality of features, proteins and machineries between organisms, and differences when conservation is not found. Two proteins that stand out that differ between yeast and mammalian cells are DNA-PK, a protein kinase that is activated by the presence of DSBs, and Artemis, a nuclease whose activity is modulated by DNA-PK and ATM. In this report we describe how these two proteins may be involved in a specific pattern of ends-processing at the DSB, particularly in the context of heterochromatin.
We previously published that the repair of the HO-induced DSB was generally accurate and occurred by simple rejoining of the cohesive 3'-overhangs generated by HO. During continuous passage of those cells in the absence of puromycin selection, the locus appears to have become more heterochromatic and silenced by displaying several features. 1) The site had become less accessible to cleavage by the HO endonuclease; 2) the expression of the puro mRNA, which confers resistance to puromycin, had become reduced; 3) occupancy of nucleosomes at the site (ChIP for histone H3) was increased, an indicator for more condensed chromatin. After reselection of these cells by addition of puromycin, many of these features were reversed. However, even the reselected cells were not identical in the pattern of cleavage and repair as the cells when originally created. Specifically, the pattern of repair revealed discrete deletions at the DSB that indicated unit losses of nucleosomes (or other protein complexes) before religation, represented by a ladder of PCR products reminiscent of an internucleosomal cleavage that is typically observed during apoptosis. This pattern of cleavage suggested to us that perhaps, Artemis, a protein that is believed to generate the internucleosomal fragments during apoptosis and in DSB repair, was involved in that specific pattern of ends-processing. Preliminary evidence indicates that this may be the case, since knock-down of Artemis with siRNA eliminated the laddering pattern and revealed instead an extensive exonucleolytic processing of the ends before religation.
e have generated a system in mammalian cells where the absence of positive selection resulted in chromatin remodeling at the target locus that recapitulates many of the features of the mating-type switching system in yeast. Specifically, just as for yeast HML and HMR, the locus had become transcriptionally repressed; accessibility to cleavage by the HO endonuclease was reduced; and processing of the ends was drastically changed. The switch was from high-fidelity religation of the cohesive ends, to a pattern of release of internucleosomal fragments, perhaps in search of micro-homology stretches for ligation. This is consistent with reports that the involvement of ATM, DNA-PK and Artemis in DSB repair is largely focused to heterochromatic regions, and not required for the majority of IR-induced DSB repair foci in euchromatin.