Activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) mutates immunoglobulin genes and acts genome-wide. AID targets robustly transcribed genes, and purified AID acts on single-stranded (ss) but not double-stranded (ds) DNA oligonucleotides. Thus, it is believed that transcription is the generator of ssDNA for AID. Previous cell-free studies examining the relationship between transcription and AID targeting have employed a bacterial colony count assay wherein AID reverts an antibiotic resistance stop codon in plasmid substrates, leading to colony formation. Here, we established a novel assay where kb-long dsDNA of varying topologies is incubated with AID, with or without transcription, followed by direct sequencing. This assay allows for an unselected and in-depth comparison of mutation frequency and pattern of AID targeting in the absence of transcription or across a range of transcription dynamics. We found that without transcription, AID targets breathing ssDNA in supercoiled and, to a lesser extent, in relaxed dsDNA. The most optimal transcription only modestly enhanced AID action on supercoiled dsDNA in a manner dependent on RNA polymerase speed. These data suggest that the correlation between transcription and AID targeting may reflect transcription leading to AID-accessible breathing ssDNA patches naturally occurring in de-chromatinized dsDNA, as much as being due to transcription directly generating ssDNA.
Keywords: RNA polymerase; breathing DNA structures; cytidine deamination; genome mutagenesis.
© 2020 The Authors. The FASEB Journal published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.