Covalent DNA protein crosslinks (DPCs) are common lesions that block replication. We examine here the consequence of DPCs on mutagenesis involving replicational template-switch reactions in Escherichia coli.
5-Azacytidine (5-azaC) is a potent mutagen for template-switching. This effect is dependent on DNA cytosine methylase (Dcm), implicating the Dcm-DNA covalent complex trapped by 5-azaC as the initiator for mutagenesis. The leading strand of replication is more mutable than the lagging strand, which can be explained by blocks to the replicative helicase and/or fork regression. We find that template-switch mutagenesis induced by 5-azaC does not require double strand break repair via RecABCD; the ability to induce the SOS response is anti-mutagenic. Mutants in recB
, but not recA
, exhibit high constitutive rates of template-switching, and we suggest that RecBCD-mediated DNA degradation prevents template-switching associated with fork regression. A mutation in the DnaB fork helicase also promotes high levels of template-switching. We also find that other DPC-inducers, formaldehyde (a non-specific crosslinker) and ciprofloxacin (a topoisomerase II poison) are also strong mutagens for template-switching with similar genetic properties. Induction of mutations and genetic rearrangements that occur by template-switching may constitute a previously unrecognized component of the genotoxicity and genetic instability promoted by DPCs.
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