Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Program in Molecular Medicine

First Thesis Advisor

Craig L. Peterson, Ph.D.


DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded, Cell Nucleus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Chromatin, Telomerase


In order to preserve its genomic integrity, an organism needs to detect and repair DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in a prompt and accurate fashion. This goal is accomplished by enabling an exquisitely sensitive DSB sensing apparatus as well as multiple and often overlapping pathways for repair. All of these processes are carried out on a highly organized and compacted chromatin substrate in the nucleus. An important question is whether chromatin plays an active role in the process and whether it helps in the signaling or repair of this damage. We have used Chromosome Conformation Capture (3C) to show that there are no large scale changes in chromosome structure at a single site-specific DNA double-strand break, although looping interactions between DSBs and donors can be detected.

In a surprising result, we found that 3C detected a nucleus-wide decrease in interactions with the DSB. We have used a combination of 3C, fluorescence microscopy and chromatin immunoprecipitation to show that the decrease in interactions is a result of the relocalization of persistent DSB to the nuclear periphery. We also show that this is dependent on the recruitment of telomerase complex to the DSB, which then interacts with its natural partner in the Inner nuclear membrane, Mps3, and relocalizes the DSB to the periphery. Thus, a DSB that cannot be repaired is shunted into a pathway where the cell attempts to survive by putting a de novotelomere on the broken chromosome.

Remarkably, this is not an irreversible phenomenon despite the recruitment of telomerase and the relocalization to the periphery. DSBs which are repaired slowly due to the presence of homology on a different chromosome, or merely usage of a kinetically slower form of repair, undergo this pathway switch, but can still recover and repair the DSB if homology is present. We also show that the role of the periphery is to ensure repair through de novotelomere formation or other non-canonical repair pathways. Indeed, loss of peripheral localization results in a dramatic suppression of the genomic instability of the Slx5/8 mutants, which have been implicated in the persistent DSB response at the Nuclear pores.

Thus, the nuclear periphery is a special compartment where DSBs go after they cannot be repaired by canonical pathways. Specialized components such as telomerase, silencing proteins and components of the SUMO pathway, all seem to play roles in the healing of these chromosomes. Importantly, the SUN domain homologues of Mps3 have been shown to play roles similar to their yeast homologues in meiotic bouquet formation through their interactions with telomeres. Thus, they may represent a conserved mechanism for chromosome healing and telomere anchoring, despite the fact that mammalian telomeres are rarely found at the nuclear periphery. Such survival mechanisms may be expected to operate in cancer cells which may or may not have upregulated telomerase expression.



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