RNA:DNA hybrids are transient physiological intermediates that arise during several cellular processes such as DNA replication. In pathological situations, they may stably accumulate and pose a threat to genome integrity. Cellular RNase H activities process these structures to restore the correct DNA:DNA sequence. Yeast cells lacking RNase H are negatively affected by depletion of deoxyribonucleotide pools necessary for DNA replication. Here we show that the translesion synthesis DNA polymerase η (Pol η) plays a role in DNA replication under low deoxyribonucleotides condition triggered by hydroxyurea. In particular, the catalytic reaction performed by Pol η is detrimental for RNase H deficient cells, causing DNA damage checkpoint activation and G2/M arrest. Moreover, a Pol η mutant allele with enhanced ribonucleotide incorporation further exacerbates the sensitivity to hydroxyurea of cells lacking RNase H activities. Our data are compatible with a model in which Pol η activity facilitates the formation or stabilization of RNA:DNA hybrids at stalled replication forks. However, in a scenario where RNase H activity fails to restore DNA, these hybrids become highly toxic for cells.
© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.