Publications

2017
Tran, Phong Lan Thao, et al.PIF1 family DNA helicases suppress R-loop mediated genome instability at tRNA genes.”. Nat Commun 8 (2017): , 8, 15025. Web.Abstract
Saccharomyces cerevisiae encodes two Pif1 family DNA helicases, Pif1 and Rrm3. Rrm3 promotes DNA replication past stable protein complexes at tRNA genes (tDNAs). We identify a new role for the Pif1 helicase: promotion of replication and suppression of DNA damage at tDNAs. Pif1 binds multiple tDNAs, and this binding is higher in rrm3Δ cells. Accumulation of replication intermediates and DNA damage at tDNAs is higher in pif1Δ rrm3Δ than in rrm3Δ cells. DNA damage at tDNAs in the absence of these helicases is suppressed by destabilizing R-loops while Pif1 and Rrm3 binding to tDNAs is increased upon R-loop stabilization. We propose that Rrm3 and Pif1 promote genome stability at tDNAs by displacing the stable multi-protein transcription complex and by removing R-loops. Thus, we identify tDNAs as a new source of R-loop-mediated DNA damage. Given their large number and high transcription rate, tDNAs may be a potent source of genome instability.
2016
Geronimo, Carly L, and Virginia A Zakian. “Getting it done at the ends: Pif1 family DNA helicases and telomeres.”. DNA Repair (Amst) 44 (2016): , 44, 151-8. Web.Abstract
It is widely appreciated that the ends of linear DNA molecules cannot be fully replicated by the conventional replication apparatus. Less well known is that semi-conservative replication of telomeric DNA also presents problems for DNA replication. These problems likely arise from the atypical chromatin structure of telomeres, the GC-richness of telomeric DNA that makes it prone to forming DNA secondary structures, and from RNA-DNA hybrids, formed by transcripts of one or both DNA strands. Given the different aspects of telomeres that complicate their replication, it is not surprising that multiple DNA helicases promote replication of telomeric DNA. This review focuses on one such class of DNA helicases, the Pif1 family of 5'-3' DNA helicases. In budding and fission yeasts, Pif1 family helicases impact both telomerase-mediated and semi-conservative replication of telomeric DNA as well as recombination-mediated telomere lengthening.
McDonald, Karin R, et al.Pfh1 Is an Accessory Replicative Helicase that Interacts with the Replisome to Facilitate Fork Progression and Preserve Genome Integrity.”. PLoS Genet 12.9 (2016): , 12, 9, e1006238. Web.Abstract
Replicative DNA helicases expose the two strands of the double helix to the replication apparatus, but accessory helicases are often needed to help forks move past naturally occurring hard-to-replicate sites, such as tightly bound proteins, RNA/DNA hybrids, and DNA secondary structures. Although the Schizosaccharomyces pombe 5'-to-3' DNA helicase Pfh1 is known to promote fork progression, its genomic targets, dynamics, and mechanisms of action are largely unknown. Here we address these questions by integrating genome-wide identification of Pfh1 binding sites, comprehensive analysis of the effects of Pfh1 depletion on replication and DNA damage, and proteomic analysis of Pfh1 interaction partners by immunoaffinity purification mass spectrometry. Of the 621 high confidence Pfh1-binding sites in wild type cells, about 40% were sites of fork slowing (as marked by high DNA polymerase occupancy) and/or DNA damage (as marked by high levels of phosphorylated H2A). The replication and integrity of tRNA and 5S rRNA genes, highly transcribed RNA polymerase II genes, and nucleosome depleted regions were particularly Pfh1-dependent. The association of Pfh1 with genomic integrity at highly transcribed genes was S phase dependent, and thus unlikely to be an artifact of high transcription rates. Although Pfh1 affected replication and suppressed DNA damage at discrete sites throughout the genome, Pfh1 and the replicative DNA polymerase bound to similar extents to both Pfh1-dependent and independent sites, suggesting that Pfh1 is proximal to the replication machinery during S phase. Consistent with this interpretation, Pfh1 co-purified with many key replisome components, including the hexameric MCM helicase, replicative DNA polymerases, RPA, and the processivity clamp PCNA in an S phase dependent manner. Thus, we conclude that Pfh1 is an accessory DNA helicase that interacts with the replisome and promotes replication and suppresses DNA damage at hard-to-replicate sites. These data provide insight into mechanisms by which this evolutionarily conserved helicase helps preserve genome integrity.
Webb, Christopher J, and Virginia A Zakian. “Telomerase RNA is more than a DNA template.”. RNA Biol 13.8 (2016): , 13, 8, 683-9. Web.Abstract
The addition of telomeric DNA to chromosome ends is an essential cellular activity that compensates for the loss of genomic DNA that is due to the inability of the conventional DNA replication apparatus to duplicate the entire chromosome. The telomerase reverse transcriptase and its associated RNA bind to the very end of the telomere via a sequence in the RNA and specific protein-protein interactions. Telomerase RNA also provides the template for addition of new telomeric repeats by the reverse-transcriptase protein subunit. In addition to the template, there are 3 other conserved regions in telomerase RNA that are essential for normal telomerase activity. Here we briefly review the conserved core regions of telomerase RNA and then focus on a recent study in fission yeast that determined the function of another conserved region in telomerase RNA called the Stem Terminus Element (STE). (1) The STE is distant from the templating core of telomerase in both the linear and RNA secondary structure, but, nonetheless, affects the fidelity of telomere sequence addition and, in turn, the ability of telomere binding proteins to bind and protect chromosome ends. We will discuss possible mechanisms of STE action and the suitability of the STE as an anti-cancer target.
2015
Lin, Kah Wai, and Virginia A Zakian. “21st Century Genetics: Mass Spectrometry of Yeast Telomerase.”. Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol 80 (2015): , 80, 111-6. Web.Abstract
Telomerase is a specialized reverse transcriptase that maintains the ends of chromosomes in almost all eukaryotes. The core of telomerase consists of telomerase RNA and the reverse transcriptase that uses a short segment without the RNA to template the addition of telomeric repeats. In addition, one or more accessory proteins are required for telomerase action in vivo. The best-studied accessory protein is Est1, which is conserved from yeasts to humans. In budding yeast, Est1 has two critical in vivo functions: By interaction with Cdc13, a telomere-binding protein, it recruits telomerase to telomeres, and it also increases telomerase activity. Although budding yeast telomerase is highly regulated by the cell cycle, Est1 is the only telomerase subunit whose abundance is cell cycle-regulated. Close to 400 yeast genes are reported to affect telomere length, although the specific function of most of them is unknown. With the goal of identifying novel telomerase regulators by mass spectrometry, we developed methods for purifying yeast telomerase and its associated proteins. We summarize the methods we used and describe the experiments that show that four telomerase-associated proteins identified by mass spectrometry, none of which had been linked previously to telomeres, affect telomere length and cell cycle regulation of telomerase by controlling Est1 abundance.
Stundon, Jennifer L, and Virginia A Zakian. “Identification of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Genes Whose Deletion Causes Synthetic Effects in Cells with Reduced Levels of the Nuclear Pif1 DNA Helicase.”. G3 (Bethesda) 512 (2015): , 5, 12, 2913-8. Web.Abstract
The multifunctional Saccharomyces cerevisiae Pif1 DNA helicase affects the maintenance of telomeric, ribosomal, and mitochondrial DNAs, suppresses DNA damage at G-quadruplex motifs, influences the processing of Okazaki fragments, and promotes breakage induced replication. All of these functions require the ATPase/helicase activity of the protein. Owing to Pif1's critical role in the maintenance of mitochondrial DNA, pif1Δ strains quickly generate respiratory deficient cells and hence grow very slowly. This slow growth makes it difficult to carry out genome-wide synthetic genetic analysis in this background. Here, we used a partial loss of function allele of PIF1, pif1-m2, which is mitochondrial proficient but has reduced abundance of nuclear Pif1. Although pif1-m2 is not a null allele, pif1-m2 cells exhibit defects in telomere maintenance, reduced suppression of damage at G-quadruplex motifs and defects in breakage induced replication. We performed a synthetic screen to identify nonessential genes with a synthetic sick or lethal relationship in cells with low abundance of nuclear Pif1. This study identified eleven genes that were synthetic lethal (APM1, ARG80, CDH1, GCR1, GTO3, PRK1, RAD10, SKT5, SOP4, UMP1, and YCK1) and three genes that were synthetic sick (DEF1, YIP4, and HOM3) with pif1-m2.
Phillips, Jane A, et al.The pif1 helicase, a negative regulator of telomerase, acts preferentially at long telomeres.”. PLoS Genet 11.4 (2015): , 11, 4, e1005186. Web.Abstract
Telomerase, the enzyme that maintains telomeres, preferentially lengthens short telomeres. The S. cerevisiae Pif1 DNA helicase inhibits both telomerase-mediated telomere lengthening and de novo telomere addition at double strand breaks (DSB). Here, we report that the association of the telomerase subunits Est2 and Est1 at a DSB was increased in the absence of Pif1, as it is at telomeres, suggesting that Pif1 suppresses de novo telomere addition by removing telomerase from the break. To determine how the absence of Pif1 results in telomere lengthening, we used the single telomere extension assay (STEX), which monitors lengthening of individual telomeres in a single cell cycle. In the absence of Pif1, telomerase added significantly more telomeric DNA, an average of 72 nucleotides per telomere compared to the 45 nucleotides in wild type cells, and the fraction of telomeres lengthened increased almost four-fold. Using an inducible short telomere assay, Est2 and Est1 no longer bound preferentially to a short telomere in pif1 mutant cells while binding of Yku80, a telomere structural protein, was unaffected by the status of the PIF1 locus. Two experiments demonstrate that Pif1 binding is affected by telomere length: Pif1 (but not Yku80) -associated telomeres were 70 bps longer than bulk telomeres, and in the inducible short telomere assay, Pif1 bound better to wild type length telomeres than to short telomeres. Thus, preferential lengthening of short yeast telomeres is achieved in part by targeting the negative regulator Pif1 to long telomeres.
Lin, Kah-Wai, et al.Proteomics of yeast telomerase identified Cdc48-Npl4-Ufd1 and Ufd4 as regulators of Est1 and telomere length.”. Nat Commun 6 (2015): , 6, 8290. Web.Abstract
Almost 400 genes affect yeast telomere length, including Est1, which is critical for recruitment and activation of telomerase. Here we use mass spectrometry to identify novel telomerase regulators by their co-purification with the telomerase holoenzyme. In addition to all known subunits, over 100 proteins are telomerase associated, including all three subunits of the essential Cdc48-Npl4-Ufd1 complex as well as three E3 ubiquitin ligases. The Cdc48 complex is evolutionarily conserved and targets ubiquitinated proteins for degradation. Est1 levels are ∼40-fold higher in cells with reduced Cdc48, yet, paradoxically, telomeres are shorter. Furthermore, Est1 is ubiquitinated and its cell cycle-regulated abundance is lost in Cdc48-deficient cells. Deletion of the telomerase-associated E3 ligase, Ufd4, in cdc48-3 cells further increases Est1 abundance but suppresses the telomere length phenotype of the single mutant. These data argue that, in concert with Ufd4, the Cdc48 complex regulates telomerase by controlling the level and activity of Est1.
Webb, Christopher J, and Virginia A Zakian. “Telomerase RNA stem terminus element affects template boundary element function, telomere sequence, and shelterin binding.”. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 112.36 (2015): , 112, 36, 11312-7. Web.Abstract
The stem terminus element (STE), which was discovered 13 y ago in human telomerase RNA, is required for telomerase activity, yet its mode of action is unknown. We report that the Schizosaccharomyces pombe telomerase RNA, TER1 (telomerase RNA 1), also contains a STE, which is essential for telomere maintenance. Cells expressing a partial loss-of-function TER1 STE allele maintained short stable telomeres by a recombination-independent mechanism. Remarkably, the mutant telomere sequence was different from that of wild-type cells. Generation of the altered sequence is explained by reverse transcription into the template boundary element, demonstrating that the STE helps maintain template boundary element function. The altered telomeres bound less Pot1 (protection of telomeres 1) and Taz1 (telomere-associated in Schizosaccharomyces pombe 1) in vivo. Thus, the S. pombe STE, although distant from the template, ensures proper telomere sequence, which in turn promotes proper assembly of the shelterin complex.
Webb, Christopher J, and Virginia A Zakian. “Telomere les(i/s)ons from a telomerase RNA mutant.”. Cell Cycle 14.24 (2015): , 14, 24, 3769-70. Web.
2014
Sabouri, Nasim, John A Capra, and Virginia A Zakian. “The essential Schizosaccharomyces pombe Pfh1 DNA helicase promotes fork movement past G-quadruplex motifs to prevent DNA damage.”. BMC Biol 12 (2014): , 12, 101. Web.Abstract
BACKGROUND: G-quadruplexes (G4s) are stable non-canonical DNA secondary structures consisting of stacked arrays of four guanines, each held together by Hoogsteen hydrogen bonds. Sequences with the ability to form these structures in vitro, G4 motifs, are found throughout bacterial and eukaryotic genomes. The budding yeast Pif1 DNA helicase, as well as several bacterial Pif1 family helicases, unwind G4 structures robustly in vitro and suppress G4-induced DNA damage in S. cerevisiae in vivo. RESULTS: We determined the genomic distribution and evolutionary conservation of G4 motifs in four fission yeast species and investigated the relationship between G4 motifs and Pfh1, the sole S. pombe Pif1 family helicase. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation combined with deep sequencing, we found that many G4 motifs in the S. pombe genome were associated with Pfh1. Cells depleted of Pfh1 had increased fork pausing and DNA damage near G4 motifs, as indicated by high DNA polymerase occupancy and phosphorylated histone H2A, respectively. In general, G4 motifs were underrepresented in genes. However, Pfh1-associated G4 motifs were located on the transcribed strand of highly transcribed genes significantly more often than expected, suggesting that Pfh1 has a function in replication or transcription at these sites. CONCLUSIONS: In the absence of functional Pfh1, unresolved G4 structures cause fork pausing and DNA damage of the sort associated with human tumors.
Bochman, Matthew L, et al.Hrq1, a homolog of the human RecQ4 helicase, acts catalytically and structurally to promote genome integrity.”. Cell Rep 62 (2014): , 6, 2, 346-56. Web.Abstract
Human RecQ4 (hRecQ4) affects cancer and aging but is difficult to study because it is a fusion between a helicase and an essential replication factor. Budding yeast Hrq1 is homologous to the disease-linked helicase domain of RecQ4 and, like hRecQ4, is a robust 3'-5' helicase. Additionally, Hrq1 has the unusual property of forming heptameric rings. Cells lacking Hrq1 exhibited two DNA damage phenotypes: hypersensitivity to DNA interstrand crosslinks (ICLs) and telomere addition to DNA breaks. Both activities are rare; their coexistence in a single protein is unprecedented. Resistance to ICLs requires helicase activity, but suppression of telomere addition does not. Hrq1 also affects telomere length by a noncatalytic mechanism, as well as telomerase-independent telomere maintenance. Because Hrq1 binds telomeres in vivo, it probably affects them directly. Thus, the tumor-suppressing activity of RecQ4 could be due to a role in ICL repair and/or suppression of de novo telomere addition.
Zhou, Ruobo, et al.Periodic DNA patrolling underlies diverse functions of Pif1 on R-loops and G-rich DNA.”. Elife 3 (2014): , 3, e02190. Web.Abstract
Pif1 family helicases are conserved from bacteria to humans. Here, we report a novel DNA patrolling activity which may underlie Pif1's diverse functions: a Pif1 monomer preferentially anchors itself to a 3'-tailed DNA junction and periodically reel in the 3' tail with a step size of one nucleotide, extruding a loop. This periodic patrolling activity is used to unfold an intramolecular G-quadruplex (G4) structure on every encounter, and is sufficient to unwind RNA-DNA heteroduplex but not duplex DNA. Instead of leaving after G4 unwinding, allowing it to refold, or going beyond to unwind duplex DNA, Pif1 repeatedly unwinds G4 DNA, keeping it unfolded. Pif1-induced unfolding of G4 occurs in three discrete steps, one strand at a time, and is powerful enough to overcome G4-stabilizing drugs. The periodic patrolling activity may keep Pif1 at its site of in vivo action in displacing telomerase, resolving R-loops, and keeping G4 unfolded during replication, recombination and repair.DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02190.001.
McDonald, Karin R, et al.The Pif1 family helicase Pfh1 facilitates telomere replication and has an RPA-dependent role during telomere lengthening.”. DNA Repair (Amst) 24 (2014): , 24, 80-6. Web.Abstract
Pif1 family helicases are evolutionary conserved 5'-3' DNA helicases. Pfh1, the sole Schizosaccharomyces pombe Pif1 family DNA helicase, is essential for maintenance of both nuclear and mitochondrial DNAs. Here we show that its nuclear functions include roles in telomere replication and telomerase action. Pfh1 promoted semi-conservative replication through telomeric DNA, as replication forks moved more slowly through telomeres when Pfh1 levels were reduced. Unlike other organisms, S. pombe cells overexpressing Pfh1 displayed markedly longer telomeres. Because this lengthening occurred in the absence of homologous recombination but not in a replication protein A mutant (rad11-D223Y) that has defects in telomerase function, it is probably telomerase-mediated. The effects of Pfh1 on telomere replication and telomere length are likely direct as Pfh1 exhibited high telomere binding in cells expressing endogenous levels of Pfh1. These findings argue that Pfh1 is a positive regulator of telomere length and telomere replication.
2013
Webb, Christopher J, Yun Wu, and Virginia A Zakian. “DNA repair at telomeres: keeping the ends intact.”. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol 56 (2013). Web.Abstract
The molecular era of telomere biology began with the discovery that telomeres usually consist of G-rich simple repeats and end with 3' single-stranded tails. Enormous progress has been made in identifying the mechanisms that maintain and replenish telomeric DNA and the proteins that protect them from degradation, fusions, and checkpoint activation. Although telomeres in different organisms (or even in the same organism under different conditions) are maintained by different mechanisms, the disparate processes have the common goals of repairing defects caused by semiconservative replication through G-rich DNA, countering the shortening caused by incomplete replication, and postreplication regeneration of G tails. In addition, standard DNA repair mechanisms must be suppressed or modified at telomeres to prevent their being recognized and processed as DNA double-strand breaks. Here, we discuss the players and processes that maintain and regenerate telomere structure.
Wu, Yun, et al.Novel phosphorylation sites in the S. cerevisiae Cdc13 protein reveal new targets for telomere length regulation.”. J Proteome Res 12.1 (2013): , 12, 1, 316-27. Web.Abstract
The S. cerevisiae Cdc13 is a multifunctional protein with key roles in regulation of telomerase, telomere end protection, and conventional telomere replication, all of which are cell cycle-regulated processes. Given that phosphorylation is a key mechanism for regulating protein function, we identified sites of phosphorylation using nano liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (nanoLC-MS/MS). We also determined phosphorylation abundance on both wild type (WT) and a telomerase deficient form of Cdc13, encoded by the cdc13-2 allele, in both G1 phase cells, when telomerase is not active, and G2/M phase cells, when it is. We identified 21 sites of in vivo phosphorylation, of which only five had been reported previously. In contrast, phosphorylation of two in vitro targets of the ATM-like Tel1 kinase, S249 and S255, was not detected. This result helps resolve conflicting data on the importance of phosphorylation of these residues in telomerase recruitment. Multiple residues showed differences in their cell cycle pattern of modification. For example, phosphorylation of S314 was significantly higher in the G2/M compared to the G1 phase and in WT versus mutant Cdc13, and a S314D mutation negatively affected telomere length. Our findings provide new targets in a key telomerase regulatory protein for modulation of telomere dynamics.
Paeschke, Katrin, et al.Pif1 family helicases suppress genome instability at G-quadruplex motifs.”. Nature 497.7450 (2013): , 497, 7450, 458-62. Web.Abstract
The Saccharomyces cerevisiae Pif1 helicase is the prototypical member of the Pif1 DNA helicase family, which is conserved from bacteria to humans. Here we show that exceptionally potent G-quadruplex unwinding is conserved among Pif1 helicases. Moreover, Pif1 helicases from organisms separated by more than 3 billion years of evolution suppressed DNA damage at G-quadruplex motifs in yeast. The G-quadruplex-induced damage generated in the absence of Pif1 helicases led to new genetic and epigenetic changes. Furthermore, when expressed in yeast, human PIF1 suppressed both G-quadruplex-associated DNA damage and telomere lengthening.
Di Domenico, Enea Gino, et al.Tel1 and Rad51 are involved in the maintenance of telomeres with capping deficiency.”. Nucleic Acids Res 41.13 (2013): , 41, 13, 6490-500. Web.Abstract
Vertebrate-like T2AG3 telomeres in tlc1-h yeast consist of short double-stranded regions and long single-stranded overhang (G-tails) and, although based on Tbf1-capping activity, they are capping deficient. Consistent with this idea, we observe Y' amplification because of homologous recombination, even in the presence of an active telomerase. In these cells, Y' amplification occurs by different pathways: in Tel1(+) tlc1h cells, it is Rad51-dependent, whereas in the absence of Tel1, it depends on Rad50. Generation of telomeric G-tail, which is cell cycle regulated, depends on the MRX (Mre11-Rad50-Xrs2) complex in tlc1h cells or is MRX-independent in tlc1h tel1Δ mutants. Unexpectedly, we observe telomere elongation in tlc1h lacking Rad51 that seems to act as a telomerase competitor for binding to telomeric G-tails. Overall, our results show that Tel1 and Rad51 have multiple roles in the maintenance of vertebrate-like telomeres in yeast, supporting the idea that they may participate to evolutionary conserved telomere protection mechanism/s acting at uncapped telomeres.
2012
Sabouri, Nasim, et al.DNA replication through hard-to-replicate sites, including both highly transcribed RNA Pol II and Pol III genes, requires the S. pombe Pfh1 helicase.”. Genes Dev 26.6 (2012): , 26, 6, 581-93. Web.Abstract
Replication forks encounter impediments as they move through the genome, including natural barriers due to stable protein complexes and highly transcribed genes. Unlike lesions generated by exogenous damage, natural barriers are encountered in every S phase. Like humans, Schizosaccharomyces pombe encodes a single Pif1 family DNA helicase, Pfh1. Here, we show that Pfh1 is required for efficient fork movement in the ribosomal DNA, the mating type locus, tRNA, 5S ribosomal RNA genes, and genes that are highly transcribed by RNA polymerase II. In addition, converged replication forks accumulated at all of these sites in the absence of Pfh1. The effects of Pfh1 on DNA replication are likely direct, as it had high binding to sites whose replication was impaired in its absence. Replication in the absence of Pfh1 resulted in DNA damage specifically at those sites that bound high levels of Pfh1 in wild-type cells and whose replication was slowed in its absence. Cells depleted of Pfh1 were inviable if they also lacked the human TIMELESS homolog Swi1, a replisome component that stabilizes stalled forks. Thus, Pfh1 promotes DNA replication and separation of converged replication forks and suppresses DNA damage at hard-to-replicate sites.
Chisholm, Karen M, et al.A genomewide screen for suppressors of Alu-mediated rearrangements reveals a role for PIF1.”. PLoS One 72 (2012): , 7, 2, e30748. Web.Abstract
Alu-mediated rearrangement of tumor suppressor genes occurs frequently during carcinogenesis. In breast cancer, this mechanism contributes to loss of the wild-type BRCA1 allele in inherited disease and to loss of heterozygosity in sporadic cancer. To identify genes required for suppression of Alu-mediated recombination we performed a genomewide screen of a collection of 4672 yeast gene deletion mutants using a direct repeat recombination assay. The primary screen and subsequent analysis identified 12 candidate genes including TSA, ELG1, and RRM3, which are known to play a significant role in maintaining genomic stability. Genetic analysis of the corresponding human homologs was performed in sporadic breast tumors and in inherited BRCA1-associated carcinomas. Sequencing of these genes in high risk breast cancer families revealed a potential role for the helicase PIF1 in cancer predisposition. PIF1 variant L319P was identified in three breast cancer families; importantly, this variant, which is predicted to be functionally damaging, was not identified in a large series of controls nor has it been reported in either dbSNP or the 1000 Genomes Project. In Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Pfh1 is required to maintain both mitochondrial and nuclear genomic integrity. Functional studies in yeast of human PIF1 L319P revealed that this variant cannot complement the essential functions of Pfh1 in either the nucleus or mitochondria. Our results provide a global view of nonessential genes involved in suppressing Alu-mediated recombination and implicate variation in PIF1 in breast cancer predisposition.

Pages