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The RecQ-like DNA helicase family is essential for the maintenance of genome stability in all organisms. Sgs1, a member of this family in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, regulates early and late steps of double-strand break repair by homologous recombination. Using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, we show that the N-terminal 125 residues of Sgs1 are disordered and contain a transient α-helix that extends from residue 25 to 38. Based on the residue-specific knowledge of transient secondary structure, we designed proline mutations to disrupt this α-helix and observed hypersensitivity to DNA damaging agents and increased frequency of genome rearrangements. In vitro binding assays show that the defects of the proline mutants are the result of impaired binding of Top3 and Rmi1 to Sgs1. Extending mutagenesis N-terminally revealed a second functionally critical region that spans residues 9–17. Depending on the position of the proline substitution in the helix functional impairment of Sgs1 function varied, gradually increasing from the C- to the N-terminus. The multiscale approach we used to interrogate structure/function relationships in the long disordered N-terminal segment of Sgs1 allowed us to precisely define a functionally critical region and should be generally applicable to other disordered proteins.

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Nucleic Acids Research, v. 41, issue 22, p. 10215-10227