Research ArticleGENETICS

Mutation at a distance caused by homopolymeric guanine repeats in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

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Science Advances  27 May 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 5, e1501033
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501033

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Mutation provides the raw material from which natural selection shapes adaptations. The rate at which new mutations arise is therefore a key factor that determines the tempo and mode of evolution. However, an accurate assessment of the mutation rate of a given organism is difficult because mutation rate varies on a fine scale within a genome. A central challenge of evolutionary genetics is to determine the underlying causes of this variation. In earlier work, we had shown that repeat sequences not only are prone to a high rate of expansion and contraction but also can cause an increase in mutation rate (on the order of kilobases) of the sequence surrounding the repeat. We perform experiments that show that simple guanine repeats 13 bp (base pairs) in length or longer (G13+) increase the substitution rate 4- to 18-fold in the downstream DNA sequence, and this correlates with DNA replication timing (R = 0.89). We show that G13+ mutagenicity results from the interplay of both error-prone translesion synthesis and homologous recombination repair pathways. The mutagenic repeats that we study have the potential to be exploited for the artificial elevation of mutation rate in systems biology and synthetic biology applications.

  • Mutation at a distance
  • mutator
  • repeat sequence
  • evolution
  • translesion synthesis
  • homologous recombination

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