The Elucidation of the Mechanism of Meiotic Chromosome Synapsis in Saccharomyces Cerevisiae : Insights into the Function of Synaptonemal Complex, Hop1 and Red1, Proteins and the Significance of DNA Quadruplex Structures
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Meiosis is a specialized type of cell division where two rounds of chromosome segregation follow a single round of DNA duplication resulting in the formation of four haploid daughter cells. Once the DNA replication is complete, the homologous chromosomes pair and recombine during the meiotic prophase I, giving rise to genetic diversity in the gametes. The process of homology search during meiosis is broadly divided into recombination-dependent (involves the formation of double-strand breaks) and recombination-independent mechanisms. In most eukaryotic organisms, pairing of homologs, recombination and chromosome segregation occurs in the context of a meiosis-specific proteinaceous structure, known as the synaptonemal complex (SC). The electron microscopic visualization of SC has revealed that the structure is tripartite with an electron-dense central element and two lateral elements that run longitudinally along the entire length of paired chromosomes. Transverse filaments are protein structures that connect the central region to the lateral elements. Genetic analyses in budding yeast indicate that mutations in SC components or defects in SC formation are associated with chromosome missegregation, aneuploidy and spore inviability. In humans, defects in SC assembly are linked to miscarriages, birth defects such as Down syndrome and development of certain types of cancer. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, genetic screens have identified several mutants that exhibit defects in SC formation culminate in a decrease in the frequency of meiotic recombination, spore viability and improper chromosome segregation. Ten meiosis-specific proteins, viz. Hop1, Red1, Mek1, Hop2, Pch2, Zip1, Zip2, Zip3, Zip4 and Rec8, have been shown to be the bona fide components of SC and/or associated with SC function. S. cerevisiae HOP1 (HOmolog Pairing) gene was isolated in a genetic screen for mutants that showed defects in homolog pairing and, consequently, reduced levels of interhomolog recombination (10% of wild-type). Amino acid sequence alignment together with genetic and biochemical analyses revealed that Hop1 is a 70 kDa protein with a centrally embedded essential zinc-finger motif (Cys2/Cys2) and functions in polymeric form. Previous biochemical studies have also shown that Hop1 is a structure-specific DNA binding protein, which exhibits high affinity for the Holliday junction (HJ) suggesting a role of this protein in branch migration of the HJ. Furthermore, Hop1 displays high affinity for G-quadruplex structures (herein after referred to as GQ) and also promotes the formation of GQ from unfolded G-rich oligonucleotides. Strikingly, Hop1 promotes pairing between two double-stranded DNA molecules via G/C-rich sequence as well as intra- and inter-molecular pairing of duplex DNA molecules. Structure-function analysis suggested that Hop1 has a modular organization consisting of a protease-sensitive N-terminal, HORMA domain (characterized in Hop1, Rev7, Mad2 proteins) and protease-resistant C-terminal domain, called Hop1CTD. Advances in the field of DNA quadruplex structures suggest a significant role for these structures in a variety of biological functions such as signal transduction, DNA replication, recombination, gene expression, sister chromatid alignment etc. GQs and i-motif structures that arise within the G/C-rich regions of the genome of different organisms have been extensively characterized using biophysical, biochemical and cell biological approaches. Emerging studies with guanine- and cytosine-rich sequences of several promoters, telomeres and centromeres have revealed the formation of GQs and i-motif, respectively. Although the presence of GQs within cells has been demonstrated using G4-specific antibodies, in general, the in vivo existence of DNA quadruplex structures is the subject of an ongoing debate. However, the identification and isolation of proteins that bind and process these structures support the idea of their in vivo existence. In S. cerevisiae, genome-wide survey to identify conserved GQs has revealed the presence of ~1400 GQ forming sequences. Additionally, these potential GQ forming motifs were found in close proximity to promoters, rDNA and mitosis- and meiosis-specific double-strand break sites (DSBs). Meiotic recombination in S. cerevisiae as well as humans occurs at meiosis-specific double-strand break (DSBs) sites that are embedded within the G/C-rich sequences. However, much less is known about the structural features and functional significance of DNA quadruplex motifs in sister chromatid alignment N during meiosis. Therefore, one of the aims of the studies described in this thesis was to investigate the relationship between the G/C-rich motif at a meiosis-specific DSB site in S. cerevisiae and its ability to form GQ and i-motif structures. To test this hypothesis, we chose a G/C-rich motif at a meiosis-specific DSB site located between co-ordinates 1242526 to 1242550 on chromosome IV of S. cerevisiae. Using multiple techniques such as native gel electrophoresis, circular dichroism spectroscopy, 2D NMR and chemical foot printing, we show that G-rich motif derived from the meiosis-specific DSB folds into an intramolecular GQ and the complementary C-rich sequence folds into an intramolecular i-motif, the latter under acidic conditions. Interestingly, we found that the C-rich strand folds into i-motif at near neutral pH in the presence of cell-mimicking molecular crowding agents. The NMR data, consistent with our biochemical and biophysical analyses, confirmed the formation of a stable i-motif structure. To further elucidate the impact of these quadruplex structures on DNA replication in vitro, we carried out DNA polymerase stop assay with a template DNA containing either the G-rich or the C-rich sequence. Primer extension assays carried out with Taq polymerase and G-rich template blocked the polymerase at a site that corresponded to the formation of an intramolecular GQ. Likewise, primer extension reactions carried out with KOD-Plus DNA polymerase and C-rich template led to the generation of a stop-product at the site of the formation of intramolecular I -motif under acidic conditions (pH 4.5 and pH 5.5). However, polymerase stop assay performed in the presence of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) that stabilize I -motif at physiological pH blocked the polymerase at the site of intramolecular I -motif formation, indicating the possible existence of i-motif in the cellular context. Taken together, these results revealed that the G/C-rich motif at the meiosis-specific DSB site folds into GQ and i-motif structures in vitro. Our in vitro analyses were in line with our in vivo analysis that examined the ability of the G/C-rich motif to fold into quadruplex structures in S. cerevisiae cells. Qualitative microscopic analysis and quantitative analysis with plasmid constructs that harbour the GQ or i-motif forming sequence revealed a significant decrease in the GFP expression levels in comparison to the control. More importantly, all the assays performed with the corresponding mutant sequences under identical experimental conditions did not yield any quadruplex structures, suggesting the involvement of contagious guanine and cytosine residues in the structure formation. Prompted by our earlier results that revealed high binding affinity of Hop1 for GQ, we wished to understand the role of the GQ and i-motif structures during meiosis by analysing their interaction with Hop1 and its truncated variants (HORMA and Hop1CTD). In agreement with our previous observations, Hop1 and Hop1CTD associated preferentially with GQ DNA. Interestingly, whereas the full-length Hop1 showed much weaker binding affinity for i-motif DNA, Hop1 C-terminal fragment but not its N-terminal fragment exhibited robust i-motif DNA binding activity. We have previously demonstrated that Hop1 promotes intermolecular synapsis between synthetic duplex DNA molecules containing a G/C-rich sequence. Hence, to understand the functional role of the quadruplex structures formed at the meiosis-specific G/C-rich motif, we examined the ability of Hop1 to promote pairing between linear duplex DNA helices containing the G/C-rich motif. DNA pairing assay indicated that binding of Hop1 to the G/C-rich duplex DNA resulted in the formation of a side-by-side synapsis product. Under similar conditions, Hop1 was unable to pair mutant duplex DNA molecules suggesting the involvement of the G/C-rich motif in the formation of the synapsis product. Our results were substantiated by the observation that yeast Rad17 failed to promote pairing between duplex DNA molecules with a centrally embedded G/C-rich motif. Altogether, these results provide important structural and functional insights into the role of quadruplex structures in meiotic pairing of homologous chromosomes. The second part of the thesis focuses on the biochemical and functional properties of Red1 protein, a component of S. cerevisiae lateral element. RED1 was identified in a screen for meiotic lethal, sporulation proficient mutants. Genetic, biochemical and microscopic analyses have demonstrated the physical interaction between Hop1 and Red1. Given this, hop1 and red1 mutants display similar phenotypes such as chromosome missegregation and spore inviability and thus are placed under the same epistasis group. However, unlike hop1 mutants, red1 mutants show complete absence of SC. RED1 overexpression suppressed certain non-null hop1 phenotypes, indicating that these proteins may have partially overlapping functions. Further, although the functional significance is unknown, chromatin immunoprecipitation studies have revealed the localization of Red1 to the GC-rich regions (R-bands) in the genome, considered to be meiotic recombination hotspots. Although the aforementioned genetic studies suggest an important role for Red1 in meiosis, the exact molecular function of Red1 in meiotic recombination remains to be elucidated. To explore the biochemical properties of Red1, we isolated the S. cerevisiae RED1 gene, cloned, overexpressed, and purified the protein to near homogeneity. Immunoprecipitation assays using meiotic cells extracts suggested that Red1 exists as a Homodimer linked by disulphide-bonds under physiological conditions. We characterized the DNA binding properties of Red1 by analysing its interaction with recombination intermediates that are likely to form during meiotic recombination. Protein-DNA interaction assays revealed that Red1 exhibits binding preference for the Holliday junction over replication fork and other recombination intermediates. Notably, Red1 displayed ~40-fold higher binding affinity for GQ in comparison with HJ. The observation that Red1 binds robustly to GQs prompted us to examine if Red1 could promote pairing between duplex DNA helices with the G/C-rich sequences similar to Hop1. Interestingly, we found that Red1 failed to promote pairing between dsDNA molecules but potentiated Hop1 mediated pairing between duplex DNA molecules. Our AFM studies with linear and circular DNA molecules along with Red1 suggested a possible role of Red1 in DNA condensation, bridging and pairing of double-stranded DNA helices. Bioinformatics analysis of Red1 indicated the lack of sequence or structural similarity to any of the known proteins. To elucidate structure-function relationship of Red1, we generated several N- and C-terminal Red1 truncations and studied their DNA binding properties. Our results indicated that the N-terminal region comprising of 678 amino acid residues constitutes the DNA-binding region of Red1. The N-terminal region, called RNTF-II, displayed similar substrate specificity comparable to that of full-length Red1. Interestingly, site-directed mutagenesis studies with the Red1 C-terminal region revealed the involvement of two cysteine residues at position 704 and 707 in the disulfide bond mediated intermolecular dimer formation. Finally, to understand the functional significance of Red1 truncations we analyzed the subcellular localization of Red1 and its truncations. We made translation fusions of RED1 and its truncations by placing their corresponding nucleotide sequences downstream of GFP coding sequence in yeast expression vector. Confocal microscopy studies with S. cerevisiae cells transformed with the individual plasmid constructs indicated that the N-terminal variants localized to the nucleus, whereas the C-terminal variants did not localize to the nucleus. These results suggest that NLS-like motifs are embedded in the N-terminal region of the protein. Furthermore, other results indicated that the N-terminal region contains functions such as DNA-binding and intermolecular bridging of non-contiguous DNA segments. Altogether, these findings, on the one hand, provide insights into the molecular mechanism underlying the functions of Hop1 and Red1 proteins and, on the other, support a role for DNA quadruplex structures in meiotic chromosome synapsis and recombination.
- Biochemistry (BC)