Repair of damaged DNA

Structure of transcribed chromatin is a sensor of DNA damage.

Early detection and repair of damaged DNA is essential for cell functioning and survival. Although multiple cellular systems are involved in the repair of single-strand DNA breaks (SSBs), it remains unknown how SSBs present in the nontemplate strand (NT-SSBs) of DNA organized in chromatin are detected. The effect of NT-SSBs on transcription through chromatin by RNA polymerase II was studied. NT-SSBs localized in the promoter-proximal region of nucleosomal DNA and hidden in the nucleosome structure can induce a nearly quantitative arrest of RNA polymerase downstream of the break, whereas more promoter-distal SSBs moderately facilitate transcription. The location of the arrest sites on nucleosomal DNA suggests that formation of small intranucleosomal DNA loops causes the arrest. This mechanism likely involves relief of unconstrained DNA supercoiling accumulated during transcription through chromatin by NT-SSBs. These data suggest the existence of a novel chromatin-specific mechanism that allows the detection of NT-SSBs by the transcribing enzyme.