Spontaneous mitotic recombination is a potential source of genetic changes such as loss of heterozygosity and chromosome translocations, which may lead to genetic disease. In this study we have used a rad52 hyper-recombination mutant, rad52-Y66A, to investigate the process of spontaneous heteroallelic recombination in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We find that spontaneous recombination has different genetic requirements, depending on whether the recombination event occurs between chromosomes or between chromosome and plasmid sequences. The hyper-recombination phenotype of the rad52-Y66A mutation is epistatic with deletion of MRE11, which is required for establishment of DNA damage-induced cohesion. Moreover, single-cell analysis of strains expressing YFP-tagged Rad52-Y66A reveals a close to wild-type frequency of focus formation, but with foci lasting 6 times longer. This result suggests that spontaneous DNA lesions that require recombinational repair occur at the same frequency in wild-type and rad52-Y66A cells, but that the recombination process is slow in rad52-Y66A cells. Taken together, we propose that the slow recombinational DNA repair in the rad52-Y66A mutant leads to a by-pass of the window-of-opportunity for sister chromatid recombination normally promoted by MRE11-dependent damage-induced cohesion thereby causing a shift towards interchromosomal recombination.
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