Publications

2020
Martin A White, Elise Darmon, Manuel A Lopez-Vernaza, and David RF Leach. 2020. “DNA double strand break repair in Escherichia coli perturbs cell division and chromosome dynamics.” PLoS Genet, 16, 1, Pp. e1008473.Abstract
To prevent the transmission of damaged genomic material between generations, cells require a system for accommodating DNA repair within their cell cycles. We have previously shown that Escherichia coli cells subject to a single, repairable site-specific DNA double-strand break (DSB) per DNA replication cycle reach a new average cell length, with a negligible effect on population growth rate. We show here that this new cell size distribution is caused by a DSB repair-dependent delay in completion of cell division. This delay occurs despite unperturbed cell size regulated initiation of both chromosomal DNA replication and cell division. Furthermore, despite DSB repair altering the profile of DNA replication across the genome, the time required to complete chromosomal duplication is invariant. The delay in completion of cell division is accompanied by a DSB repair-dependent delay in individualization of sister nucleoids. We suggest that DSB repair events create inter-sister connections that persist until those chromosomes are separated by a closing septum.
2018
Nancy E Kleckner, Katerina Chatzi, Martin A White, Jay K Fisher, and Mathieu Stouf. 2018. “Coordination of Growth, Chromosome Replication/Segregation, and Cell Division in .” Front Microbiol, 9, Pp. 1469.Abstract
Bacterial cells growing in steady state maintain a 1:1:1 relationship between an appropriate mass increase, a round of DNA replication plus sister chromosome segregation, and cell division. This is accomplished without the cell cycle engine found in eukaryotic cells. We propose here a formal logic, and an accompanying mechanism, for how such coordination could be provided in . Completion of chromosomal and divisome-related events would lead, interactively, to a "progression control complex" (PCC) which provides integrated physical coupling between sister terminus regions and the nascent septum. When a cell has both (i) achieved a sufficient mass increase, and (ii) the PCC has developed, a conformational change in the PCC occurs. This change results in "progression permission," which triggers both onset of cell division and release of terminus regions. Release of the terminus region, in turn, directly enables a next round of replication initiation via physical changes transmitted through the nucleoid. Division and initiation are then implemented, each at its own rate and timing, according to conditions present. Importantly: (i) the limiting step for progression permission may be either completion of the growth requirement or the chromosome/divisome processes required for assembly of the PCC; and, (ii) the outcome of the proposed process is granting of permission to progress, not determination of the absolute or relative timings of downstream events. This basic logic, and the accompanying mechanism, can explain coordination of events in both slow and fast growth conditions; can accommodate diverse variations and perturbations of cellular events; and is compatible with existing mathematical descriptions of the cell cycle. Also, while our proposition is specifically designed to provide 1:1:1 coordination among basic events on a "per-cell cycle" basis, it is a small step to further envision permission progression is also the target of basic growth rate control. In such a case, the rate of mass accumulation (or its equivalent) would determine the length of the interval between successive permission events and, thus, successive cell divisions and successive replication initiations.
Vincent Amarh, Martin A White, and David RF Leach. 2018. “Dynamics of RecA-mediated repair of replication-dependent DNA breaks.” J Cell Biol, 217, 7, Pp. 2299-2307.Abstract
Chromosomal replication is the major source of spontaneous DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in living cells. Repair of these DSBs is essential for cell viability, and accuracy of repair is critical to avoid chromosomal rearrangements. Repair of replication-dependent DSBs occurs primarily by homologous recombination with a sister chromosome. However, this reaction has never been visualized at a defined chromosomal locus, so little is known about its spatial or temporal dynamics. Repair of a replication-independent DSB generated in by a rare-cutting endonuclease leads to the formation of a bundle of RecA filaments. In this study, we show that in contrast, repair of a replication-dependent DSB involves a transient RecA focus localized in the central region of the cell in which the DNA is replicated. The recombining loci remain centrally located with restricted movement before segregating with little extension to the period of postreplicative sister-chromosome cohesion. The spatial and temporal efficiency of this reaction is remarkable.
Martin A White, Benura Azeroglu, Manuel A Lopez-Vernaza, Mahedi AM Hasan, and David RF Leach. 2018. “RecBCD coordinates repair of two ends at a DNA double-strand break, preventing aberrant chromosome amplification.” Nucleic Acids Res, 46, 13, Pp. 6670-6682.Abstract
DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair is critical for cell survival. A diverse range of organisms from bacteria to humans rely on homologous recombination for accurate DSB repair. This requires both coordinate action of the two ends of a DSB and stringent control of the resultant DNA replication to prevent unwarranted DNA amplification and aneuploidy. In Escherichia coli, RecBCD enzyme is responsible for the initial steps of homologous recombination. Previous work has revealed recD mutants to be nuclease defective but recombination proficient. Despite this proficiency, we show here that a recD null mutant is defective for the repair of a two-ended DSB and that this defect is associated with unregulated chromosome amplification and defective chromosome segregation. Our results demonstrate that RecBCD plays an important role in avoiding this amplification by coordinating the two recombining ends in a manner that prevents divergent replication forks progressing away from the DSB site.
2017
Shunxin Wang, Terry Hassold, Patricia Hunt, Martin A White, Denise Zickler, Nancy Kleckner, and Liangran Zhang. 2017. “Inefficient Crossover Maturation Underlies Elevated Aneuploidy in Human Female Meiosis.” Cell, 168, 6, Pp. 977-989.e17.Abstract
Meiosis is the cellular program that underlies gamete formation. For this program, crossovers between homologous chromosomes play an essential mechanical role to ensure regular segregation. We present a detailed study of crossover formation in human male and female meiosis, enabled by modeling analysis. Results suggest that recombination in the two sexes proceeds analogously and efficiently through most stages. However, specifically in female (but not male), ∼25% of the intermediates that should mature into crossover products actually fail to do so. Further, this "female-specific crossover maturation inefficiency" is inferred to make major contributions to the high level of chromosome mis-segregation and resultant aneuploidy that uniquely afflicts human female oocytes (e.g., giving Down syndrome). Additionally, crossover levels on different chromosomes in the same nucleus tend to co-vary, an effect attributable to global per-nucleus modulation of chromatin loop size. Maturation inefficiency could potentially reflect an evolutionary advantage of increased aneuploidy for human females.
Carol M Manhart, Xiaodan Ni, Martin A White, Joaquin Ortega, Jennifer A Surtees, and Eric Alani. 2017. “The mismatch repair and meiotic recombination endonuclease Mlh1-Mlh3 is activated by polymer formation and can cleave DNA substrates in trans.” PLoS Biol, 15, 4, Pp. e2001164.Abstract
Crossing over between homologs is initiated in meiotic prophase by the formation of DNA double-strand breaks that occur throughout the genome. In the major interference-responsive crossover pathway in baker's yeast, these breaks are resected to form 3' single-strand tails that participate in a homology search, ultimately forming double Holliday junctions (dHJs) that primarily include both homologs. These dHJs are resolved by endonuclease activity to form exclusively crossovers, which are critical for proper homolog segregation in Meiosis I. Recent genetic, biochemical, and molecular studies in yeast are consistent with the hypothesis of Mlh1-Mlh3 DNA mismatch repair complex acting as the major endonuclease activity that resolves dHJs into crossovers. However, the mechanism by which the Mlh1-Mlh3 endonuclease is activated is unknown. Here, we provide evidence that Mlh1-Mlh3 does not behave like a structure-specific endonuclease but forms polymers required to generate nicks in DNA. This conclusion is supported by DNA binding studies performed with different-sized substrates that contain or lack polymerization barriers and endonuclease assays performed with varying ratios of endonuclease-deficient and endonuclease-proficient Mlh1-Mlh3. In addition, Mlh1-Mlh3 can generate religatable double-strand breaks and form an active nucleoprotein complex that can nick DNA substrates in trans. Together these observations argue that Mlh1-Mlh3 may not act like a canonical, RuvC-like Holliday junction resolvase and support a novel model in which Mlh1-Mlh3 is loaded onto DNA to form an activated polymer that cleaves DNA.
Martin A White, Shunxin Wang, Liangran Zhang, and Nancy Kleckner. 2017. “Quantitative Modeling and Automated Analysis of Meiotic Recombination.” Methods Mol Biol, 1471, Pp. 305-323.Abstract
Many morphological features, in both physical and biological systems, exhibit spatial patterns that are specifically characterized by a tendency to occur with even spacing (in one, two, or three dimensions). The positions of crossover (CO) recombination events along meiotic chromosomes provide an interesting biological example of such an effect. In general, mechanisms that explain such patterns may (a) be mechanically based, (b) occur by a reaction-diffusion mechanism in which macroscopic mechanical effects are irrelevant, or (c) involve a combination of both types of effects. We have proposed that meiotic CO patterns arise by a mechanical mechanism, have developed mathematical expressions for such a process based on a particular physical system with analogous properties (the so-called beam-film model), and have shown that the beam-film model can very accurately explain experimental CO patterns as a function of the values of specific defined parameters. Importantly, the mathematical expressions of the beam-film model can apply quite generally to any mechanism, whether it involves mechanical components or not, as long as its logic and component features correspond to those of the beam-film system. Furthermore, via its various parameters, the beam-film model discretizes the patterning process into specific components. Thus, the model can be used to explore the theoretically predicted effects of various types of changes in the patterning process. Such predictions can expand detailed understanding of the bases for various biological effects. We present here a new MATLAB program that implements the mathematical expressions of the beam-film model with increased robustness and accessibility as compared to programs presented previously. As in previous versions, the presented program permits both (1) simulation of predicted CO positions along chromosomes of a test population and (2) easy analysis of CO positions, both for experimental data sets and for data sets resulting from simulations. The goal of the current presentation is to make these approaches more readily accessible to a wider audience of researchers. Also, the program is easily modified, and we encourage interested users to make changes to suit their specific needs. A link to the program is available on the Kleckner laboratory website: http://projects.iq.harvard.edu/kleckner_lab .
2016
Benura Azeroglu, Julia SP Mawer, Charlotte A Cockram, Martin A White, Mahedi AM Hasan, Milana Filatenkova, and David RF Leach. 2016. “RecG Directs DNA Synthesis during Double-Strand Break Repair.” PLoS Genet, 12, 2, Pp. e1005799.Abstract
Homologous recombination provides a mechanism of DNA double-strand break repair (DSBR) that requires an intact, homologous template for DNA synthesis. When DNA synthesis associated with DSBR is convergent, the broken DNA strands are replaced and repair is accurate. However, if divergent DNA synthesis is established, over-replication of flanking DNA may occur with deleterious consequences. The RecG protein of Escherichia coli is a helicase and translocase that can re-model 3-way and 4-way DNA structures such as replication forks and Holliday junctions. However, the primary role of RecG in live cells has remained elusive. Here we show that, in the absence of RecG, attempted DSBR is accompanied by divergent DNA replication at the site of an induced chromosomal DNA double-strand break. Furthermore, DNA double-stand ends are generated in a recG mutant at sites known to block replication forks. These double-strand ends, also trigger DSBR and the divergent DNA replication characteristic of this mutant, which can explain over-replication of the terminus region of the chromosome. The loss of DNA associated with unwinding joint molecules previously observed in the absence of RuvAB and RecG, is suppressed by a helicase deficient PriA mutation (priA300), arguing that the action of RecG ensures that PriA is bound correctly on D-loops to direct DNA replication rather than to unwind joint molecules. This has led us to put forward a revised model of homologous recombination in which the re-modelling of branched intermediates by RecG plays a fundamental role in directing DNA synthesis and thus maintaining genomic stability.
2014
Nancy Kleckner, Jay K Fisher, Mathieu Stouf, Martin A White, David Bates, and Guillaume Witz. 2014. “The bacterial nucleoid: nature, dynamics and sister segregation.” Curr Opin Microbiol, 22, Pp. 127-37.Abstract
Recent studies reveal that the bacterial nucleoid has a defined, self-adherent shape and an underlying longitudinal organization and comprises a viscoelastic matrix. Within this shape, mobility is enhanced by ATP-dependent processes and individual loci can undergo ballistic off-equilibrium movements. In Escherichia coli, two global dynamic nucleoid behaviors emerge pointing to nucleoid-wide accumulation and relief of internal stress. Sister segregation begins with local splitting of individual loci, which is delayed at origin, terminus and specialized interstitial snap regions. Globally, as studied in several systems, segregation is a multi-step process in which internal nucleoid state plays critical roles that involve both compaction and expansion. The origin and terminus regions undergo specialized programs partially driven by complex ATP burning mechanisms such as a ParAB Brownian ratchet and a septum-associated FtsK motor. These recent findings reveal strong, direct parallels among events in different systems and between bacterial nucleoids and mammalian chromosomes with respect to physical properties, internal organization and dynamic behaviors.
Benura Azeroglu, Frédéric Lincker, Martin A White, Devanshi Jain, and David RF Leach. 2014. “A perfect palindrome in the Escherichia coli chromosome forms DNA hairpins on both leading- and lagging-strands.” Nucleic Acids Res, 42, 21, Pp. 13206-13.Abstract
DNA palindromes are hotspots for DNA double strand breaks, inverted duplications and intra-chromosomal translocations in a wide spectrum of organisms from bacteria to humans. These reactions are mediated by DNA secondary structures such as hairpins and cruciforms. In order to further investigate the pathways of formation and cleavage of these structures, we have compared the processing of a 460 base pair (bp) perfect palindrome in the Escherichia coli chromosome with the same construct interrupted by a 20 bp spacer to form a 480 bp interrupted palindrome. We show here that the perfect palindrome can form hairpin DNA structures on the templates of the leading- and lagging-strands in a replication-dependent reaction. In the presence of the hairpin endonuclease SbcCD, both copies of the replicated chromosome containing the perfect palindrome are cleaved, resulting in the formation of an unrepairable DNA double-strand break and cell death. This contrasts with the interrupted palindrome, which forms a hairpin on the lagging-strand template that is processed to form breaks, which can be repaired by homologous recombination.
Elise Darmon, John K Eykelenboom, Manuel A Lopez-Vernaza, Martin A White, and David RF Leach. 2014. “Repair on the go: E. coli maintains a high proliferation rate while repairing a chronic DNA double-strand break.” PLoS One, 9, 10, Pp. e110784.Abstract
DNA damage checkpoints exist to promote cell survival and the faithful inheritance of genetic information. It is thought that one function of such checkpoints is to ensure that cell division does not occur before DNA damage is repaired. However, in unicellular organisms, rapid cell multiplication confers a powerful selective advantage, leading to a dilemma. Is the activation of a DNA damage checkpoint compatible with rapid cell multiplication? By uncoupling the initiation of DNA replication from cell division, the Escherichia coli cell cycle offers a solution to this dilemma. Here, we show that a DNA double-strand break, which occurs once per replication cycle, induces the SOS response. This SOS induction is needed for cell survival due to a requirement for an elevated level of expression of the RecA protein. Cell division is delayed, leading to an increase in average cell length but with no detectable consequence on mutagenesis and little effect on growth rate and viability. The increase in cell length caused by chronic DNA double-strand break repair comprises three components: two types of increase in the unit cell size, one independent of SfiA and SlmA, the other dependent of the presence of SfiA and the absence of SlmA, and a filamentation component that is dependent on the presence of either SfiA or SlmA. These results imply that chronic checkpoint induction in E. coli is compatible with rapid cell multiplication. Therefore, under conditions of chronic low-level DNA damage, the SOS checkpoint operates seamlessly in a cell cycle where the initiation of DNA replication is uncoupled from cell division.
2010
Martin White. 10/27/2010. “Replication, Recombination and Chromosome Segregation in Escherichia coli.” University of Edinburgh (1). Publisher's Version
Elise Darmon, John K Eykelenboom, Frédéric Lincker, Lucy H Jones, Martin White, Ewa Okely, John K Blackwood, and David R Leach. 2010. “E. coli SbcCD and RecA control chromosomal rearrangement induced by an interrupted palindrome.” Mol Cell, 39, 1, Pp. 59-70.Abstract
Survival and genome stability are critical characteristics of healthy cells. DNA palindromes pose a threat to genome stability and have been shown to participate in a reaction leading to the formation of inverted chromosome duplications centered around themselves. There is considerable interest in the mechanism of this rearrangement given its likely contribution to genome instability in cancer cells. This study shows that formation of large inverted chromosome duplications can be observed in the chromosome of Escherichia coli. They are formed at the site of a 246 bp interrupted DNA palindrome in the absence of the hairpin nuclease SbcCD and the recombination protein RecA. The genetic requirements for this spontaneous rearrangement are consistent with a pathway involving DNA degradation and hairpin formation, as opposed to a cruciform cleavage pathway. Accordingly, the formation of palindrome-dependent hairpin intermediates can be induced by an adjacent DNA double-stand break.
2008
Martin A White, John K Eykelenboom, Manuel A Lopez-Vernaza, Emily Wilson, and David RF Leach. 2008. “Non-random segregation of sister chromosomes in Escherichia coli.” Nature, 455, 7217, Pp. 1248-50.Abstract
It has long been known that the 5' to 3' polarity of DNA synthesis results in both a leading and lagging strand at all replication forks. Until now, however, there has been no evidence that leading or lagging strands are spatially organized in any way within a cell. Here we show that chromosome segregation in Escherichia coli is not random but is driven in a manner that results in the leading and lagging strands being addressed to particular cellular destinations. These destinations are consistent with the known patterns of chromosome segregation. Our work demonstrates a new level of organization relating to the replication and segregation of the E. coli chromosome.