Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Biology (Cell Biology, Microbiology, Molecular Biology)

Major Professor

Kristina Schmidt, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Meera Nanjundan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stanley Stevens, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sandy Westerheide, Ph.D.


Genome Instability, DNA repair, RecQ Helicases, Sgs1, Exo1


Genome instability is a hallmark of human cancers. Patients with Bloom’s syndrome, a rare chromosome breakage syndrome caused by inactivation of the RecQ helicase BLM, result in phenotypes associated with accelerated aging and develop cancer at a very young age. Patients with Bloom’s syndrome exhibit hyper-recombination, but the role of BLM and increased genomic instability is not fully characterized. Sgs1, the only member of the RecQ family of DNA helicases in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is known to act both in early and late stages of homology-dependent repair of DNA damage. Exo1, a 5′–3′ exonuclease, first discovered to play a role in mismatch repair has been shown to participate in parallel to Sgs1 in processing the ends of DNA double-strand breaks, an early step of homology-mediated repair. Here we have characterized the genetic interaction of SGS1 and EXO1 with other repair factors in homology-mediated repair as well as DNA damage checkpoints, and characterize the role of post-translational modifications, and protein-protein interactions in regulating their function in response to DNA damage. In S. cerevisiae cells lacking Sgs1, spontaneous translocations arise by homologous recombination in small regions of homology between three non-allelic, but related sequences in the genes CAN1, LYP1, and ALP1. We have found that these translocation events are inhibited if cells lack Mec1/ATR kinase while Tel1/ATM acts as a suppressor, and that they are dependent on Rad59, a protein known to function as one of two sub-pathways of Rad52 homology-directed repair.

Through a candidate screen of other DNA metabolic factors, we identified Exo1 as a strong suppressor of chromosomal rearrangements in the sgs1∆ mutant. The Exo1 enzymatic domain is located in the N-terminus while the C-terminus harbors mismatch repair protein binding sites as well as phosphorylation sites known to modulate its enzymatic function at uncapped telomeres. We have determined that the C-terminus is dispensable for Exo1’s roles in resistance to DNA-damaging agents and suppressing mutations and chromosomal rearrangements. Exo1 has been identified as a component of the error-free DNA damage tolerance pathway of template switching. Exo1 promotes template switching by extending the single strand gap behind stalled replication forks. Here, we show that the dysregulation of the phosphorylation of the C-terminus of Exo1 is detrimental in cells under replication stress whereas loss of Exo1 suppresses under the same conditions, suggesting that Exo1 function is tightly regulated by both phosphorylation and dephosphorylation and is important in properly modulating the DNA damage response at stalled forks.

It has previously been shown that the strand exchange factor Rad51 binds to the C-terminus of Sgs1 although the significance of this physical interaction has yet to be determined. To elucidate the function of the physical interaction of Sgs1 and Rad51, we have generated a separation of function allele of SGS1 with a single amino acid change (sgs1-FD) that ablates the physical interaction with Rad51. Alone, the loss of the interaction of Sgs1 and Rad51 in our sgs1-FD mutant did not cause any of the defects in response to DNA damaging agents or genome rearrangements that are observed in the sgs1 deletion mutant. However, when we assessed the sgs1-FD mutant in combination with the loss of Sae2, Mre11, Exo1, Srs2, Rrm3, and Pol32 we observed genetic interactions that distinguish the sgs1-FD mutant from the sgs1∆mutant. Negative and positive genetic interactions with SAE2, MRE11, EXO1, SRS2, RRM3, and POL32 suggest the role of the physical interaction of Sgs1 and Rad51 is in promoting homology-mediated repair possibly by competing with single-strand binding protein RPA for single-stranded DNA to promote Rad51 filament formation.

Together, these studies characterize additional roles for domains of Sgs1 and Exo1 that are not entirely understood as well as their roles in combination with DNA damage checkpoints, and repair pathways that are necessary for maintaining genome stability.