Transcription and recombination: when RNA meets DNA

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2014 Aug 1;6(8):a016543. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a016543.


A particularly relevant phenomenon in cell physiology and proliferation is the fact that spontaneous mitotic recombination is strongly enhanced by transcription. The most accepted view is that transcription increases the occurrence of double-strand breaks and/or single-stranded DNA gaps that are repaired by recombination. Most breaks would arise as a consequence of the impact that transcription has on replication fork progression, provoking its stalling and/or breakage. Here, we discuss the mechanisms responsible for the cross talk between transcription and recombination, with emphasis on (1) the transcription-replication conflicts as the main source of recombinogenic DNA breaks, and (2) the formation of cotranscriptional R-loops as a major cause of such breaks. The new emerging questions and perspectives are discussed on the basis of the interference between transcription and replication, as well as the way RNA influences genome dynamics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded
  • DNA Replication / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic*
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism
  • Recombination, Genetic / physiology*
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology*


  • RNA
  • DNA