The access-repair-restore model for the role of chromatin in DNA repair infers that chromatin is a mere obstacle to DNA repair. However, here we show that blocking chromatin assembly, via knockdown of the histone chaperones ASF1 or CAF-1 or a mutation that prevents ASF1A binding to histones, hinders Rad51 loading onto ssDNA during homologous recombination. This is a consequence of reduced recruitment of the Rad51 loader MMS22L-TONSL to ssDNA, resulting in persistent RPA foci, extensive DNA end resection, persistent activation of the ATR-Chk1 pathway, and cell cycle arrest. In agreement, histones occupy ssDNA during DNA repair in yeast. We also uncovered DNA-PKcs-dependent DNA damage-induced ASF1A phosphorylation, which enhances chromatin assembly, promoting MMS22L-TONSL recruitment and, hence, Rad51 loading. We propose that transient assembly of newly synthesized histones onto ssDNA serves to recruit MMS22L-TONSL to efficiently form the Rad51 nucleofilament for strand invasion, suggesting an active role of chromatin assembly in homologous recombination.
Classically, p53 tumor suppressor acts in transcription, apoptosis, and cell cycle arrest. Yet, replication-mediated genomic instability is integral to oncogenesis, and p53 mutations promote tumor progression and drug-resistance. By delineating human and murine separation-of-function p53 alleles, we find that p53 null and gain-of-function (GOF) mutations exhibit defects in restart of stalled or damaged DNA replication forks that drive genomic instability, which isgenetically separable from transcription activation. By assaying protein-DNA fork interactions in single cells, we unveil a p53-MLL3-enabled recruitment of MRE11 DNA replication restart nuclease. Importantly, p53 defects or depletion unexpectedly allow mutagenic RAD52 and POLθ pathways to hijack stalled forks, which we find reflected in p53 defective breast-cancer patient COSMIC mutational signatures. These data uncover p53 as a keystone regulator of replication homeostasis within a DNA restart network. Mechanistically, this has important implications for development of resistance in cancer therapy. Combined, these results define an unexpected role for p53-mediated suppression of replication genome instability.