Despite playing physiological roles in specific situations, DNA-RNA hybrids threat genome integrity. To investigate how cells do counteract spontaneous DNA-RNA hybrids, here we screen an siRNA library covering 240 human DNA damage response (DDR) genes and select siRNAs causing DNA-RNA hybrid accumulation and a significant increase in hybrid-dependent DNA breakage. We identify post-replicative repair and DNA damage checkpoint factors, including those of the ATM/CHK2 and ATR/CHK1 pathways. Thus, spontaneous DNA-RNA hybrids are likely a major source of replication stress, but they can also accumulate and menace genome integrity as a consequence of unrepaired DSBs and post-replicative ssDNA gaps in normal cells. We show that DNA-RNA hybrid accumulation correlates with increased DNA damage and chromatin compaction marks. Our results suggest that different mechanisms can lead to DNA-RNA hybrids with distinct consequences for replication and DNA dynamics at each cell cycle stage and support the conclusion that DNA-RNA hybrids are a common source of spontaneous DNA damage that remains unsolved under a deficient DDR.
Keywords: ATM; ATR; DNA damage response; R loop; post-replicative repair.
© 2019 The Authors.