Functional analysis of the Drosophila Rad51 gene (spn-A) in repair of DNA damage and meiotic chromosome segregation

DNA Repair (Amst). 2005 Feb 3;4(2):231-42. doi: 10.1016/j.dnarep.2004.09.009.


Rad51 is a crucial enzyme in DNA repair, mediating the strand invasion and strand exchange steps of homologous recombination (HR). Mutations in the Drosophila Rad51 gene (spn-A) disrupt somatic as well as meiotic double-strand break (DSB) repair, similar to fungal Rad51 genes. However, the sterility of spn-A mutant females prevented a thorough analysis of the role of Rad51 in meiosis. In this study, we generated transgenic animals that express spn-A dsRNA under control of an inducible promoter, and examined the effects of inhibiting expression of spn-A on DNA repair, meiotic recombination and meiotic chromosome pairing and segregation. We found that depletion of spn-A mRNA had no effect on the viability of non-mutagen-treated transgenic animals but greatly reduced the survival of larvae that were exposed to the radiomimetic drug MMS, in agreement with the MMS and X-ray sensitivity of spn-A mutant animals. We also found that increases in dose of spn-A gene enhanced larval resistance to MMS exposure, suggesting that at high damage levels, Rad51 protein levels may be limiting for DNA repair. spn-A RNAi strongly stimulated X-X nondisjunction and decreased recombination along the X in female meiosis, consistent with a requirement of Rad51 in meiotic recombination. However, neither RNAi directed against the spn-A mRNA nor homozygosity for a spn-A null mutation had any effect on male fertility or on X-Y segregation in male meiosis, indicating that Rad51 likely plays no role in male meiotic chromosome pairing. Our results support a central role for Rad51 in HR in both somatic and meiotic DSB repair, but indicate that Rad51 in Drosophila is dispensable for meiotic chromosome pairing. Our results also provide the first demonstration that RNAi can be used to inhibit the functions of meiotic genes in Drosophila.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Chromosome Pairing
  • Chromosome Segregation
  • Crossing Over, Genetic
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA Repair*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / physiology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / enzymology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Female
  • Homozygote
  • Larva
  • Male
  • Meiosis / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • Rad51 Recombinase
  • Radiation Tolerance / genetics
  • Recombination, Genetic*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Rad51 Recombinase
  • spn-A protein, Drosophila