Publications

2020
C. L. Lai, C. Y. Chen, S. C. Ou, M. Prentiss, and B. M. Pettitt. 2020. “Interactions between identical DNA double helices.” PHYSICAL REVIEW E, 101. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The molecular mechanism of specific interactions between double stranded DNA molecules has been investigated for many years. Problems remain in how confinement, ions, and condensing agents change the interactions. We consider how the orientational alignment of DNAs contributes to the interactions via free energy simulations. Here we report on the effective interactions between two parallel DNA double helices in 150-mM NaCl solution using all atom models. We calculate the potential of mean force (PMF) of DNA-DNA interactions as a function of two coordinates, interhelical separation of parallel double helices and relative rotation of a DNA molecule with respect to the other about the helical axis. We generate the two-dimensional PMF to better understand the effective interactions when a DNA molecule is in juxtaposition with another. The analysis of the ion and solvent distributions around the DNA and particularly in the interface region shows that certain alignments of the DNA pair enhance the interactions. At local free energy minima in distance and alignment, water molecules and Na+ ions form a hydrogen bonded network with the phosphates from each DNA. This network contributes an attractive energy component to the DNA-DNA interactions. Our results provide a molecular mechanism whereby local DNA-DNA interactions, depending on the helical orientation, give a potential mechanism for stabilizing pairing of much larger lengths of homologous DNA that have been seen experimentally. The study suggests an atomically detailed local picture of relevance to certain aspects of DNA condensation or aggregation.
2019
C. Li, C. Danilowicz, T. F. Tashjian, V. G. Godoy, C. Prevost, and M. Prentiss. 2019. “The positioning of Chi sites allows the RecBCD pathway to suppress some genomic rearrangements.” NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH, 47, Pp. 1836-1846. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Bacterial recombinational repair of double-strand breaks often begins with creation of initiating 3 single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) tails on each side of a double-strand break (DSB). Importantly, if the RecBCD pathway is followed, RecBCD creates a gap between the sequences at 3 ends of the initiating strands. The gap flanks the DSB and extends at least to the nearest Chi site on each strand. Once the initiating strands form ssDNA-RecA filaments, each ssDNA-RecA filament searches for homologous double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) to use as a template for the DNA synthesis needed to fill the gap created by RecBCD. Our experimental results show that the DNA synthesis requires formation of a heteroduplex dsDNA that pairs >20 contiguous bases in the initiating strand with sequence matched bases in a strand from the original dsDNA. To trigger synthesis, the heteroduplex must be near the 3 end of the initiating strand. Those experimentally determined requirements for synthesis combined with the Chi site dependence of the function of RecBCD and the distribution of Chi sites in bacterial genomes could allow the RecBCD pathway to avoid some genomic rearrangements arising from directly induced DSBs; however, the same three factors could promote other rearrangements.
T. F. Tashjian, C. Danilowicz, A. E. Molza, B. H. Nguyen, C. Prevost, M. Prentiss, and V. G. Godoy. 2019. “Residues in the fingers domain of the translesion DNA polymerase DinB enable its unique participation in error-prone double-strand break repair.” JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY, 294, Pp. 7588-7600. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The evolutionarily conserved Escherichia coli translesion DNA polymerase IV (DinB) is one of three enzymes that can bypass potentially deadly DNA lesions on the template strand during DNA replication. Remarkably, however, DinB is the only known translesion DNA polymerase active in RecA-mediated strand exchange during error-prone double-strand break repair. In this process, a single-stranded DNA (ssDNA)-RecA nucleoprotein filament invades homologous dsDNA, pairing the ssDNA with the complementary strand in the dsDNA. When exchange reaches the 3 end of the ssDNA, a DNA polymerase can add nucleotides onto the end, using one strand of dsDNA as a template and displacing the other. It is unknown what makes DinB uniquely capable of participating in this reaction. To explore this topic, we performed molecular modeling of DinB's interactions with the RecA filament during strand exchange, identifying key contacts made with residues in the DinB fingers domain. These residues are highly conserved in DinB, but not in other translesion DNA polymerases. Using a novel FRET-based assay, we found that DinB variants with mutations in these conserved residues are less effective at stabilizing RecA-mediated strand exchange than native DinB. Furthermore, these variants are specifically deficient in strand displacement in the absence of RecA filament. We propose that the amino acid patch of highly conserved residues in DinB-like proteins provides a mechanistic explanation for DinB's function in strand exchange and improves our understanding of recombination by providing evidence that RecA plays a role in facilitating DinB's activity during strand exchange.
D. Lu, C. Danilowicz, T. F. Tashjian, C. Prevost, V. G. Godoy, and M. Prentiss. 2019. “Slow extension of the invading DNA strand in a D-loop formed by RecA-mediated homologous recombination may enhance recognition of DNA homology.” JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY, 294, Pp. 8606-8616. Publisher's VersionAbstract
DNA recombination resulting from RecA-mediated strand exchange aided by RecBCD proteins often enables accurate repair of DNA double-strand breaks. However, the process of recombinational repair between short DNA regions of accidental similarity can lead to fatal genomic rearrangements. Previous studies have probed how effectively RecA discriminates against interactions involving a short similar sequence that is embedded in otherwise dissimilar sequences but have not yielded fully conclusive results. Here, we present results of in vitro experiments with fluorescent probes strategically located on the interacting DNA fragments used for recombination. Our findings suggest that DNA synthesis increases the stability of the recombination products. Fluorescence measurements can also probe the homology dependence of the extension of invading DNA strands in D-loops formed by RecA-mediated strand exchange. We examined the slow extension of the invading strand in a D-loop by DNA polymerase (Pol) IV and the more rapid extension by DNA polymerase LF-Bsu. We found that when DNA Pol IV extends the invading strand in a D-loop formed by RecA-mediated strand exchange, the extension afforded by 82 bp of homology is significantly longer than the extension on 50 bp of homology. In contrast, the extension of the invading strand in D-loops by DNA LF-Bsu Pol is similar for intermediates with 50 bp of homology. These results suggest that fatal genomic rearrangements due to the recombination of small regions of accidental homology may be reduced if RecA-mediated strand exchange is immediately followed by DNA synthesis by a slow polymerase.
B. Boyer, C. Danilowicz, M. Prentiss, and C. Prevost. 2019. “Weaving DNA strands: structural insight on ATP hydrolysis in RecA-induced homologous recombination.” NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH, 47, Pp. 7798-7808. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Homologous recombination is a fundamental process in all living organisms that allows the faithful repair of DNA double strand breaks, through the exchange of DNA strands between homologous regions of the genome. Results of three decades of investigation and recent fruitful observations have unveiled key elements of the reaction mechanism, which proceeds along nucleofilaments of recombinase proteins of the RecA family. Yet, one essential aspect of homologous recombination has largely been overlooked when deciphering the mechanism: while ATP is hydrolyzed in large quantity during the process, how exactly hydrolysis influences the DNA strand exchange reaction at the structural level remains to be elucidated. In this study, we build on a previous geometrical approach that studied the RecA filament variability without bound DNA to examine the putative implication of ATP hydrolysis on the structure, position, and interactions of up to three DNA strands within the RecA nucleofilament. Simulation results on modeled intermediates in the ATP cycle bring important clues about how local distortions in the DNA strand geometries resulting from ATP hydrolysis can aid sequence recognition by promoting local melting of already formed DNA heteroduplex and transient reverse strand exchange in a weaving type of mechanism.
2017
C. Danilowicz, L. Hermans, V. Coljee, C. Prevost, and M. Prentiss. 2017. “ATP hydrolysis provides functions that promote rejection of pairings between different copies of long repeated sequences.” NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH, 45, Pp. 8448-8462. Publisher's VersionAbstract
During DNA recombination and repair, RecA family proteins must promote rapid joining of homologous DNA. Repeated sequences with >100 base pair lengths occupy more than 1% of bacterial genomes; however, commitment to strand exchange was believed to occur after testing similar to 20-30 bp. If that were true, pairings between different copies of long repeated sequences would usually become irreversible. Our experiments reveal that in the presence of ATP hydrolysis even 75 bp sequence-matched strand exchange products remain quite reversible. Experiments also indicate that when ATP hydrolysis is present, flanking heterologous dsDNA regions increase the reversibility of sequence matched strand exchange products with lengths up to similar to 75 bp. Results of molecular dynamics simulations provide insight into how ATP hydrolysis destabilizes strand exchange products. These results inspired a model that shows how pairings between long repeated sequences could be efficiently rejected even though most homologous pairings form irreversible products.
A. Bitran, W. Y. Chiang, E. Levine, and M. Prentiss. 2017. “Mechanisms of fast and stringent search in homologous pairing of double-stranded DNA.” PLOS COMPUTATIONAL BIOLOGY, 13. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Self-organization in the cell relies on the rapid and specific binding of molecules to their cognate targets. Correct bindings must be stable enough to promote the desired function even in the crowded and fluctuating cellular environment. In systems with many nearly matched targets, rapid and stringent formation of stable products is challenging. Mechanisms that overcome this challenge have been previously proposed, including separating the process into multiple stages; however, how particular in vivo systems overcome the challenge remains unclear. Here we consider a kinetic system, inspired by homology dependent pairing between double stranded DNA in bacteria. By considering a simplified tractable model, we identify different homology testing stages that naturally occur in the system. In particular, we first model dsDNA molecules as short rigid rods containing periodically spaced binding sites. The interaction begins when the centers of two rods collide at a random angle. For most collision angles, the interaction energy is weak because only a few binding sites near the collision point contribute significantly to the binding energy. We show that most incorrect pairings are rapidly rejected at this stage. In rare cases, the two rods enter a second stage by rotating into parallel alignment. While rotation increases the stability of matched and nearly matched pairings, subsequent rotational fluctuations reduce kinetic trapping. Finally, in vivo chromosome are much longer than the persistence length of dsDNA, so we extended the model to include multiple parallel collisions between long dsDNA molecules, and find that those additional interactions can greatly accelerate the searching.
C. L. Liu, C. Danilowicz, N. Kleckner, and M. Prentiss. 2017. “Single molecule identification of homology-dependent interactions between long ssRNA and dsDNA.” NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH, 45, Pp. 894-901. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are prominently associated with chromosomes in an ever-increasing diversity of roles. To provide further insight into the potential nature of these associations, we have explored, for the first time, the interaction of long single-stranded (ss) RNAs with cognate homologous double-stranded (ds) DNA in vitro. Using magnetic tweezers, we measured the effects of ssRNA on force extension curves for dsDNA. We observe that the presence of ssRNA impedes the extension of dsDNA, specifically at low forces, dependent on homology between the RNA and DNA species, and dependent on ssRNA lengths (>= 1 kb). The observed effect also depends on the concentration of ssRNA and is abolished by overstretching of the dsDNA. These findings show that significant homologous contacts can occur between long ssRNA and dsDNA in the absence of protein and that these contacts alter the mechanical properties of the dsDNA. We propose that long ssRNA interacts paranemically with long dsDNA via periodic short homologous interactions, e.g. mediated by RNA/DNA triplex-formation, and that dsDNA extension is impeded by formation of RNA secondary structure in the intervening unbound regions. Analogous interactions in vivo would permit lncRNAs to mediate the juxtaposition of two or more DNA regions on the same or different chromosomes.
2016
S. C. Leon, M. Prentiss, and M. Fyta. 2016. “Binding energies of nucleobase complexes: Relevance to homology recognition of DNA.” PHYSICAL REVIEW E, 93. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The binding energies of complexes of DNA nucleobase pairs are evaluated using quantum mechanical calculations at the level of dispersion corrected density functional theory. We begin with Watson-Crick base pairs of singlets, duplets, and triplets and calculate their binding energies. At a second step, mismatches are incorporated into theWatson-Crick complexes in order to evaluate the variation in the binding energy with respect to the canonical Watson-Crick pairs. A linear variation of this binding energy with the degree of mismatching is observed. The binding energies for the duplets and triplets containing mismatches are further compared to the energies of the respective singlets in order to assess the degree of collectivity in these complexes. This study also suggests that mismatches do not considerably affect the energetics of canonical base pairs. Our work is highly relevant to the recognition process in DNA promoted through the RecA protein and suggests a clear distinction between recognition in singlets, and recognition in duplets or triplets. Our work assesses the importance of collectivity in the homology recognition of DNA.
D. J. Lee, C. Danilowicz, C. Rochester, A. A. Kornyshev, and M. Prentiss. 2016. “Evidence of protein-free homology recognition in magnetic bead force-extension experiments.” PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY A-MATHEMATICAL PHYSICAL AND ENGINEERING SCIENCES, 472. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Earlier theoretical studies have proposed that the homology-dependent pairing of large tracts of dsDNA may be due to physical interactions between homologous regions. Such interactions could contribute to the sequence-dependent pairing of chromosome regions that may occur in the presence or the absence of double-strand breaks. Several experiments have indicated the recognition of homologous sequences in pure electrolytic solutions without proteins. Here, we report single-molecule force experiments with a designed 60 kb long dsDNA construct; one end attached to a solid surface and the other end to a magnetic bead. The 60 kb constructs contain two 10 kb long homologous tracts oriented head to head, so that their sequences match if the two tracts fold on each other. The distance between the bead and the surface is measured as a function of the force applied to the bead. At low forces, the construct molecules extend substantially less than normal, control dsDNA, indicating the existence of preferential interaction between the homologous regions. The force increase causes no abrupt but continuous unfolding of the paired homologous regions. Simple semi-phenomenological models of the unfolding mechanics are proposed, and their predictions are compared with the data.
2015
Z. Y. Liang, D. Zickler, M. Prentiss, F. S. Chang, G. Witz, K. Maeshima, and N. Kleckner. 2015. “Chromosomes Progress to Metaphase in Multiple Discrete Steps via Global Compaction/Expansion Cycles.” CELL, 161, Pp. 1124-1137. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Mammalian mitotic chromosome morphogenesis was analyzed by 4D live-cell and snapshot deconvolution fluorescence imaging. Prophase chromosomes, whose organization was previously unknown, are revealed to comprise co-oriented sister linear loop arrays displayed along a single, peripheral, regularly kinked topoisomerase II/cohesin/condensin II axis. Thereafter, rather than smooth, progressive compaction as generally envisioned, progression to metaphase is a discontinuous process involving chromosome expansion as well as compaction. At late prophase, dependent on topoisomerase II and with concomitant cohesin release, chromosomes expand, axes split and straighten, and chromatin loops transit to a radial disposition around now-central axes. Finally, chromosomes globally compact, giving the metaphase state. These patterns are consistent with the hypothesis that the molecular events of chromosome morphogenesis are governed by accumulation and release of chromosome stress, created by chromatin compaction and expansion. Chromosome state could evolve analogously throughout the cell cycle.
D. R. Yang, B. Boyer, C. Prevost, C. Danilowicz, and M. Prentiss. 2015. “Integrating multi-scale data on homologous recombination into a new recognition mechanism based on simulations of the RecA-ssDNA/dsDNA structure.” NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH, 43, Pp. 10251-10263. Publisher's VersionAbstract
RecA protein is the prototypical recombinase. Members of the recombinase family can accurately repair double strand breaks in DNA. They also provide crucial links between pairs of sister chromatids in eukaryotic meiosis. A very broad outline of how these proteins align homologous sequences and promote DNA strand exchange has long been known, as are the crystal structures of the RecA-DNA pre- and postsynaptic complexes; however, little is known about the homology searching conformations and the details of how DNA in bacterial genomes is rapidly searched until homologous alignment is achieved. By integrating a physical model of recognition to new modeling work based on docking exploration and molecular dynamics simulation, we present a detailed structure/function model of homology recognition that reconciles extremely quick searching with the efficient and stringent formation of stable strand exchange products and which is consistent with a vast body of previously unexplained experimental results.
C. Danilowicz, D. Yang, C. Kelley, C. Prevost, and M. Prentiss. 2015. “The poor homology stringency in the heteroduplex allows strand exchange to incorporate desirable mismatches without sacrificing recognition in vivo.” NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH, 43, Pp. 6473-6485. Publisher's VersionAbstract
RecA family proteins are responsible for homology search and strand exchange. In bacteria, homology search begins after RecA binds an initiating single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) in the primary DNA-binding site, forming the presynaptic filament. Once the filament is formed, it interrogates double-stranded DNA (dsDNA). During the interrogation, bases in the dsDNA attempt to form Watson-Crick bonds with the corresponding bases in the initiating strand. Mismatch dependent instability in the base pairing in the heteroduplex strand exchange product could provide stringent recognition; however, we present experimental and theoretical results suggesting that the heteroduplex stability is insensitive to mismatches. We also present data suggesting that an initial homology test of 8 contiguous bases rejects most interactions containing more than 1/8 mismatches without forming a detectable 20 bp product. We propose that, in vivo, the sparsity of accidental sequence matches allows an initial 8 bp test to rapidly reject almost all non-homologous sequences. We speculate that once the initial test is passed, the mismatch insensitive binding in the heteroduplex allows short mismatched regions to be incorporated in otherwise homologous strand exchange products even though sequences with less homology are eventually rejected.
D. R. Yang, C. Danilowicz, B. Boyer, C. Prevost, and M. Prentiss. 2015. “RecA mediated homology recognition offers lessons for sequence dependent protein recognition, protein folding, and artificial self-assembly.” JOURNAL OF BIOMOLECULAR STRUCTURE & DYNAMICS, 33, Pp. 69-70. Publisher's Version
A. Peacock-Villada, V. Coljee, C. Danilowicz, and M. Prentiss. 2015. “ssDNA Pairing Accuracy Increases When Abasic Sites Divide Nucleotides into Small Groups.” PLOS ONE, 10. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Accurate sequence dependent pairing of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) molecules plays an important role in gene chips, DNA origami, and polymerase chain reactions. In many assays accurate pairing depends on mismatched sequences melting at lower temperatures than matched sequences; however, for sequences longer than similar to 10 nucleotides, single mismatches and correct matches have melting temperature differences of less than 3 degrees C. We demonstrate that appropriately grouping of 35 bases in ssDNA using abasic sites increases the difference between the melting temperature of correct bases and the melting temperature of mismatched base pairings. Importantly, in the presence of appropriately spaced abasic sites mismatches near one end of a long dsDNA destabilize the annealing at the other end much more effectively than in systems without the abasic sites, suggesting that the dsDNA melts more uniformly in the presence of appropriately spaced abasic sites. In sum, the presence of appropriately spaced abasic sites allows temperature to more accurately discriminate correct base pairings from incorrect ones.
B. Boyer, D. R. Yang, C. Danilowicz, M. Prentiss, and C. Prevost. 2015. “Structural insights into the mechanism of homologous recombination.” JOURNAL OF BIOMOLECULAR STRUCTURE & DYNAMICS, 33, Pp. 72-72. Publisher's Version
M. Prentiss, C. Prevost, and C. Danilowicz. 2015. “Structure/function relationships in RecA protein-mediated homology recognition and strand exchange.” CRITICAL REVIEWS IN BIOCHEMISTRY AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY, 50, Pp. 453-476. Publisher's VersionAbstract
RecA family proteins include RecA, Rad51, and Dmc1. These recombinases are responsible for homology search and strand exchange. Homology search and strand exchange occur during double-strand break repair and in eukaryotes during meiotic recombination. In bacteria, homology search begins when RecA binds an initiating single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) in the primary DNA-binding site to form the presynaptic filament. The filament is a right-handed helix, where the initiating strand is bound deep within the filament. Once the presynaptic filament is formed, it interrogates nearby double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) to find a homologous sequence; therefore, we provide a detailed discussion of structural features of the presynaptic filament that play important functional roles. The discussion includes many diagrams showing multiple filament turns. These diagrams illustrate interactions that are not evident in single turn structures. The first dsDNA interactions with the presynaptic filament are insensitive to mismatches. The mismatch insensitive interactions lead to dsDNA deformation that triggers a homology testing process governed by kinetics. The first homology test involves approximate to 8 bases. Almost all interactions are rejected by this initial rapid test, leading to a new cycle of homology testing. Interactions that pass the initial rapid test proceed to a slower testing stage. That slower stage induces nonhomologous dsDNA to reverse strand exchange and begin a new cycle of homology testing. In contrast, homologous dsDNA continues to extend the heteroduplex strand-exchange product until ATP hydrolysis makes strand exchange irreversible.
2014
D. Yang, C. Prevost, and M. Prentiss. 2014. “Atomistic Studies Support a Detailed Model of RecA Mediated Homology Recognition and Strand Exchange.” BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL, 106, Pp. 691A-691A. Publisher's Version
C. Danilowicz, A. Peacock-Villada, J. Vlassakis, A. Facon, E. Feinstein, N. Kleckner, and M. Prentiss. 2014. “The differential extension in dsDNA bound to Rad51 filaments may play important roles in homology recognition and strand exchange.” NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH, 42, Pp. 526-533. Publisher's VersionAbstract
RecA and Rad51 proteins play an important role in DNA repair and homologous recombination. For RecA, X-ray structure information and single molecule force experiments have indicated that the differential extension between the complementary strand and its Watson-Crick pairing partners promotes the rapid unbinding of non-homologous dsDNA and drives strand exchange forward for homologous dsDNA. In this work we find that both effects are also present in Rad51 protein. In particular, pulling on the opposite termini (3' and 5') of one of the two DNA strands in a dsDNA molecule allows dsDNA to extend along non-homologous Rad51-ssDNA filaments and remain stably bound in the extended state, but pulling on the 3'5' ends of the complementary strand reduces the strand-exchange rate for homologous filaments. Thus, the results suggest that differential extension is also present in dsDNA bound to Rad51. The differential extension promotes rapid recognition by driving the swift unbinding of dsDNA from non-homologous Rad51-ssDNA filaments, while at the same time, reducing base pair tension due to the transfer of the Watson-Crick pairing of the complementary strand bases from the highly extended outgoing strand to the slightly less extended incoming strand, which drives strand exchange forward.
L. L. Jiang and M. Prentiss. 2014. “RecA-mediated sequence homology recognition as an example of how searching speed in self-assembly systems can be optimized by balancing entropic and enthalpic barriers.” PHYSICAL REVIEW E, 90. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Ideally, self-assembly should rapidly and efficiently produce stable correctly assembled structures. We study the tradeoff between enthalpic and entropic cost in self-assembling systems using RecA-mediated homology search as an example. Earlier work suggested that RecA searches could produce stable final structures with high stringency using a slow testing process that follows an initial rapid search of similar to 9-15 bases. In this work, we will show that as a result of entropic and enthalpic barriers, simultaneously testing all similar to 9-15 bases as separate individual units results in a longer overall searching time than testing them in groups and stages.

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