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PLoS Genet. 2008 Jun 27;4(6):e1000105. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000105.

Low levels of DNA polymerase alpha induce mitotic and meiotic instability in the ribosomal DNA gene cluster of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America.


The ribosomal DNA (rDNA) genes of Saccharomyces cerevisiae are located in a tandem array of about 150 repeats. Using a diploid with markers flanking and within the rDNA array, we showed that low levels of DNA polymerase alpha elevate recombination between both homologues and sister chromatids, about five-fold in mitotic cells and 30-fold in meiotic cells. This stimulation is independent of Fob1p, a protein required for the programmed replication fork block (RFB) in the rDNA. We observed that the fob1 mutation alone significantly increased meiotic, but not mitotic, rDNA recombination, suggesting a meiosis-specific role for this protein. We found that meiotic cells with low polymerase alpha had decreased Sir2p binding and increased Spo11p-catalyzed double-strand DNA breaks in the rDNA. Furthermore, meiotic crossover interference in the rDNA is absent. These results suggest that the hyper-Rec phenotypes resulting from low levels of DNA polymerase alpha in mitosis and meiosis reflect two fundamentally different mechanisms: the increased mitotic recombination is likely due to increased double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs) resulting from Fob1p-independent stalled replication forks, whereas the hyper-Rec meiotic phenotype results from increased levels of Spo11-catalyzed DSBs in the rDNA.

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