Holliday junctions (HJs) are four-way DNA intermediates that form during homologous recombination, and their efficient resolution is essential for chromosome segregation. Here, we show that three structure-selective endonucleases, namely SLX1-SLX4, MUS81-EME1, and GEN1, define two pathways of HJ resolution in human cells. One pathway is mediated by GEN1, whereas SLX1-SLX4 and MUS81-EME1 provide a second and genetically distinct pathway (SLX-MUS). Cells depleted for SLX-MUS or GEN1 pathway proteins exhibit severe defects in chromosome segregation and reduced survival. In response to CDK-mediated phosphorylation, SLX1-SLX4 and MUS81-EME1 associate at the G2/M transition to form a stable SLX-MUS holoenzyme, which can be reconstituted in vitro. Biochemical studies show that SLX-MUS is a HJ resolvase that coordinates the active sites of two distinct endonucleases during HJ resolution. This cleavage reaction is more efficient and orchestrated than that mediated by SLX1-SLX4 alone, which exhibits a potent nickase activity that acts promiscuously upon DNA secondary structures.
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