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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Feb 28;103(9):3256-61. Epub 2006 Feb 21.

Negative epistasis between natural variants of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae MLH1 and PMS1 genes results in a defect in mismatch repair.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


In budding yeast, the MLH1-PMS1 heterodimer is the major MutL homolog complex that acts to repair mismatches arising during DNA replication. Using a highly sensitive mutator assay, we observed that Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains bearing the S288c-strain-derived MLH1 gene and the SK1-strain-derived PMS1 gene displayed elevated mutation rates that conferred a long-term fitness cost. Dissection of this negative epistatic interaction using S288c-SK1 chimeras revealed that a single amino acid polymorphism in each gene accounts for this mismatch repair defect. Were these strains to cross in natural populations, segregation of alleles would generate a mutator phenotype that, although potentially transiently adaptive, would ultimately be selected against because of the accumulation of deleterious mutations. Such fitness "incompatibilities" could potentially contribute to reproductive isolation among geographically dispersed yeast. This same segregational mutator phenotype suggests a mechanism to explain some cases of a human cancer susceptibility syndrome known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, as well as some sporadic cancers.

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