With double-stranded DNA, when wrong bases are paired or one or few nucleotides are in excess or missing on one of the strands, a mismatch is generated. If mismatches are not corrected, they can lead to mutations.
The researchers found that single mismatched ribonucleotides in chromosomal DNA were removed by either the mismatch repair system or RNase H type 2. Mismatched ribonucleotides in the middle of at least four other ribonucleotides required RNase H type 1 for removal.
"We were excited to find that a DNA repair mechanism like mismatch repair was activated by RNA/DNA mismatches and could remove ribonucleotides embedded in chromosomal DNA," explained Storici. "In future studies, we plan to test whether other DNA repair mechanisms, such as nucleotide-excision repair and base-excision repair, can also locate and remove ribonucleotides in DNA."
Using gene correction assays driven by short nucleic acid polymers called oligonucleotides, the researchers showed that when ribonucleotides embedded in DNA were not removed, they served as templates for DNA synthesis and produced a mutation in the DNA. If both the mismatch repair system and RNase H repair mechanisms are disabled, ribonucleotide-driven gene modification increased by a factor of 47 in the yeast and 77,000 in the bacterium.
Defects in the mismatch repair system are known to predispose a person to certain types of cancer. Because the mismatch repair system is conserved from unicellular to multicellular organisms, such as humans, this study's findings open up the possibility that defects in the mismatch repair system could have consequences more critical than previously thought given the newly identified function of mismatch repair to target RNA/DNA mispairs.
|Contact: Abby Robinson|
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News