The homologous recombination protein

Homologous recombination (HR) is a DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair pathway that protects the genome from chromosomal instability. RAD51 mediator proteins (i.e. paralogs) are critical for efficient HR in mammalian cells. However, how HR-deficient cells process DSBs is not clear.

Here, we utilized a loss-of-function HR-reporter substrate to simultaneously monitor HR-mediated gene conversion and non-conservative mutation events. The assay is designed around a heteroallelic duplication of the Aprt gene at its endogenous locus in isogenic Chinese hamster ovary cell lines.

We found that RAD51D-deficient cells had a reduced capacity for HR-mediated gene conversion both spontaneously and in response to I-SceI-induced DSBs. Further, RAD51D-deficiency shifted DSB repair toward highly deleterious single-strand annealing (SSA) and end-joining processes that led to the loss of large chromosomal segments surrounding site-specific DSBs at an exceptionally high frequency.

Deletions in the proximity of the break were due to a non-homologous end-joining pathway, while larger deletions were processed via a SSA pathway. Overall, our data revealed that, in addition to leading to chromosomal abnormalities, RAD51D-deficiency resulted in a high frequency of deletions advancing our understanding of how a RAD51 paralog is involved in maintaining genomic stability and how its deficiency may predispose cells to tumorigenesis.