Eukaryotic MutLα (mammalian MLH1-PMS2 heterodimer; MLH1-PMS1 in yeast) functions in early steps of mismatch repair as a latent endonuclease that requires a mismatch, MutSα/β, and DNA-loaded proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) for activation. We show here that human PCNA and MutLα interact specifically but weakly in solution to form a complex of approximately 1:1 stoichiometry that depends on PCNA interaction with the C-terminal endonuclease domain of the MutLα PMS2 subunit. Amino acid substitution mutations within a PMS2 C-terminal 721QRLIAP motif attenuate or abolish human MutLα interaction with PCNA, as well as PCNA-dependent activation of MutLα endonuclease, PCNA- and DNA-dependent activation of MutLα ATPase, and MutLα function in in vitro mismatch repair. Amino acid substitution mutations within the corresponding yeast PMS1 motif (723QKLIIP) reduce or abolish mismatch repair in vivo. Coupling of a weak allele within this motif (723AKLIIP) with an exo1Δ null mutation, which individually confer only weak mutator phenotypes, inactivates mismatch repair in the yeast cell.
Keywords: DNA repair; MutLalpha; endonuclease; mismatch repair; proliferating cell nuclear antigen.