DNA Interstrand Crosslink Repair in Trypanosoma brucei
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Genomes are constantly challenged by agents that promote DNA damage, with interstrand crosslinks (ICLs) representing a particularly dangerous lesion. Ongoing work in the Wilkinson laboratory aimed at identifying novel agents that target Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of African trypanosomiasis, identified several prodrugs that once activated form ICLs in this protozoan parasite. To understand the complexity of ICL repair systems that T. brucei employs to resolve such damage, a variety of null mutant lines were generated that lack activities postulated to fix such lesions. Phenotypic screens using various DNA damaging agents revealed that TbMRE11, TbEXO1, TbCSB, TbCHL1, TbFAN1, TbBRCA2 and TbRAD51 all help to resolve ICLs, implicating components of the homologous recombination, nucleotide excision repair and mismatch repair pathways in resolving this form of damage: This approach demonstrated that components of the translesion synthesis pathway (TbREV2 and TbREV3) do not play a significant role in ICL repair. In many organisms, nucleases belonging to the SNM1/PSO2 family play a key and specific role in the repair of ICLs with this property extending to the T. brucei homologue, TbSNM1. To assess whether there is a functional linkage between the DNA repair factors noted above and TbSNM1, a series of double null mutants were constructed and the susceptibility of these lines to ICL inducing agents determined. Identification of their epistatic/non-epistatic interactions revealed that T. brucei expresses at least two ICL repair systems with one pathway involving the concerted activities of TbSNM1/TbCSB/TbEXO1, that we postulate functions to repair ICLs encountered by the transcriptional machinery, while the other is centred upon TbMRE11/TbFAN1/TbEXO1 that may help resolve lesions which cause stalling of DNA replication forks. By unravelling how T. brucei repairs ICLs, specific inhibitors against key components of these pathways could be developed and used in combination with DNA damaging agents to target trypanosomal infections.
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