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Genetics. 2011 Dec;189(4):1225-33. doi: 10.1534/genetics.111.132738. Epub 2011 Sep 27.

Dynamics of homology searching during gene conversion in Saccharomyces cerevisiae revealed by donor competition.

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Department of Biology and Rosenstiel Center, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02254-9110, USA.


One of the least understood aspects of homologous recombination is the process by which the ends of a double-strand break (DSB) search the entire genome for homologous templates that can be used to repair the break. We took advantage of the natural competition between the alternative donors HML and HMR employed during HO endonuclease-induced switching of the budding yeast MAT locus. The strong mating-type-dependent bias in the choice of the donors is enforced by the recombination enhancer (RE), which lies 17 kb proximal to HML. We investigated factors that improve the use of the disfavored donor. We show that the normal heterochromatic state of the donors does not impair donor usage, as donor choice is not affected by removing this epigenetic silencing. In contrast, increasing the length of homology shared by the disfavored donor increases its use. This result shows that donor choice is not irrevocable and implies that there are several encounters between the DSB ends and even the favored donor before recombination is accomplished. The increase by adding more homology is not linear; these results can be explained by a thermodynamic model that determines the energy cost of using one donor over the other. An important inference from this analysis is that when HML is favored as the donor, RE causes a reduction in its effective genomic distance from MAT from 200 kb to ∼20 kb, which we hypothesize occurs after the DSB is created, by epigenetic chromatin modifications around MAT.

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