Mitotic recombination can result in loss of heterozygosity and chromosomal rearrangements that shape genome structure and initiate human disease. Engineered double-strand breaks (DSBs) are a potent initiator of recombination, but whether spontaneous events initiate with the breakage of one or both DNA strands remains unclear. In the current study, a crossover (CO)-specific assay was used to compare heteroduplex DNA (hetDNA) profiles, which reflect strand exchange intermediates, associated with DSB-induced versus spontaneous events in yeast. Most DSB-induced CO products had the two-sided hetDNA predicted by the canonical DSB repair model, with a switch in hetDNA position from one product to the other at the position of the break. Approximately 40% of COs, however, had hetDNA on only one side of the initiating break. This anomaly can be explained by a modified model in which there is frequent processing of an early invasion (D-loop) intermediate prior to extension of the invading end. Finally, hetDNA tracts exhibited complexities consistent with frequent expansion of the DSB into a gap, migration of strand-exchange junctions, and template switching during gap-filling reactions. hetDNA patterns in spontaneous COs isolated in either a wild-type background or in a background with elevated levels of reactive oxygen species (tsa1? mutant) were similar to those associated with the DSB-induced events, suggesting that DSBs are the major instigator of spontaneous mitotic recombination in yeast.
Journal: PLoS genetics