Homologous recombination as a replication fork escort: fork-protection and recovery

Biomolecules. 2012 Dec 27;3(1):39-71. doi: 10.3390/biom3010039.


Homologous recombination is a universal mechanism that allows DNA repair and ensures the efficiency of DNA replication. The substrate initiating the process of homologous recombination is a single-stranded DNA that promotes a strand exchange reaction resulting in a genetic exchange that promotes genetic diversity and DNA repair. The molecular mechanisms by which homologous recombination repairs a double-strand break have been extensively studied and are now well characterized. However, the mechanisms by which homologous recombination contribute to DNA replication in eukaryotes remains poorly understood. Studies in bacteria have identified multiple roles for the machinery of homologous recombination at replication forks. Here, we review our understanding of the molecular pathways involving the homologous recombination machinery to support the robustness of DNA replication. In addition to its role in fork-recovery and in rebuilding a functional replication fork apparatus, homologous recombination may also act as a fork-protection mechanism. We discuss that some of the fork-escort functions of homologous recombination might be achieved by loading of the recombination machinery at inactivated forks without a need for a strand exchange step; as well as the consequence of such a model for the stability of eukaryotic genomes.