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Genes Dev. 2011 Oct 1;25(19):2041-56. doi: 10.1101/gad.17010011.

R-loop-mediated genomic instability is caused by impairment of replication fork progression.

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  • 1College of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China.


Transcriptional R loops are anomalous RNA:DNA hybrids that have been detected in organisms from bacteria to humans. These structures have been shown in eukaryotes to result in DNA damage and rearrangements; however, the mechanisms underlying these effects have remained largely unknown. To investigate this, we first show that R-loop formation induces chromosomal DNA rearrangements and recombination in Escherichia coli, just as it does in eukaryotes. More importantly, we then show that R-loop formation causes DNA replication fork stalling, and that this in fact underlies the effects of R loops on genomic stability. Strikingly, we found that attenuation of replication strongly suppresses R-loop-mediated DNA rearrangements in both E. coli and HeLa cells. Our findings thus provide a direct demonstration that R-loop formation impairs DNA replication and that this is responsible for the deleterious effects of R loops on genome stability from bacteria to humans.

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