Cotranscriptionally formed DNA:RNA hybrids mediate transcription elongation impairment and transcription-associated recombination

Mol Cell. 2003 Sep;12(3):711-21. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2003.08.010.


Genetic instability, a phenomenon relevant for developmentally regulated processes, cancer, and inherited disorders, can be induced by transcription. However, the mechanisms of transcription-associated genetic instability are not yet understood. Analysis of S. cerevisiae mutants of THO/TREX, a conserved eukaryotic protein complex functioning at the interface of transcription and mRNA metabolism, has provided evidence that transcription elongation impairment can cause hyperrecombination. Here we show, using hpr1Delta mutants, that the nascent mRNA can diminish transcription elongation efficiency and promote recombination. If during transcription the nascent mRNA is self-cleaved by a hammerhead ribozyme, the transcription-defect and hyperrecombination phenotypes of hpr1Delta cells are suppressed. Abolishment of hyperrecombination by overexpression of RNase H1 and molecular detection of DNA:RNA hybrids indicate that these are formed cotranscriptionally in hpr1Delta cells. These data support a model to explain the connection between recombination, transcription, and mRNA metabolism and provide a new perspective to understanding transcription-associated recombination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics*
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism
  • Exodeoxyribonucleases / genetics
  • Hybridization, Genetic / genetics*
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Phosphoproteins*
  • RNA, Catalytic / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis*
  • Recombination, Genetic / genetics*
  • Ribonuclease H / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Transcription, Genetic / genetics*


  • Phosphoproteins
  • RNA, Catalytic
  • RNA, Messenger
  • hammerhead ribozyme
  • DNA
  • Exodeoxyribonucleases
  • three prime repair exonuclease 1
  • Ribonuclease H
  • ribonuclease HI