DNA replication, transcription, and H3K56 acetylation regulate copy number and stability at tandem repeats

Salim, Devika; Bradford, William D; Rubinstein, Boris and Gerton, Jennifer L (2021). DNA replication, transcription, and H3K56 acetylation regulate copy number and stability at tandem repeats. G3 Genes|Genomes|Genetics, 11(6), article no. jkab082.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/g3journal/jkab082


Tandem repeats are inherently unstable and exhibit extensive copy number polymorphisms. Despite mounting evidence for their adaptive potential, the mechanisms associated with regulation of the stability and copy number of tandem repeats remain largely unclear. To study copy number variation at tandem repeats, we used two well-studied repetitive arrays in the budding yeast genome, the ribosomal DNA (rDNA) locus, and the copper-inducible CUP1 gene array. We developed powerful, highly sensitive, and quantitative assays to measure repeat instability and copy number and used them in multiple high-throughput genetic screens to define pathways involved in regulating copy number variation. These screens revealed that rDNA stability and copy number are regulated by DNA replication, transcription, and histone acetylation. Through parallel studies of both arrays, we demonstrate that instability can be induced by DNA replication stress and transcription. Importantly, while changes in stability in response to stress are observed within a few cell divisions, a change in steady state repeat copy number requires selection over time. Further, H3K56 acetylation is required for regulating transcription and transcription-induced instability at the CUP1 array, and restricts transcription-induced amplification. Our work suggests that the modulation of replication and transcription is a direct, reversible strategy to alter stability at tandem repeats in response to environmental stimuli, which provides cells rapid adaptability through copy number variation. Additionally, histone acetylation may function to promote the normal adaptive program in response to transcriptional stress. Given the omnipresence of DNA replication, transcription, and chromatin marks like histone acetylation, the fundamental mechanisms we have uncovered significantly advance our understanding of the plasticity of tandem repeats more generally.

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