Seol Y, Harami GM, Kovács M, Neuman KC

Homology sensing via non-linear amplification of sequence dependent pausing by RecQ helicase

Elife,2019 Aug 29;8. pii: e45909. doi: 10.7554/eLife.45909

RecQ helicases promote genomic stability through their unique ability to suppress illegitimate recombination and resolve recombination intermediates. These DNA structure-specific activities of RecQ helicases are mediated by the helicase-and-RNAseD like C-terminal (HRDC) domain, via unknown mechanisms. Here, employing single-molecule magnetic tweezers and rapid kinetic approaches we establish that the HRDC domain stabilizes intrinsic, sequence-dependent, pauses of the core helicase (lacking the HRDC) in a DNA geometry-dependent manner. We elucidate the core unwinding mechanism in which the unwinding rate depends on the stability of the duplex DNA leading to transient sequence-dependent pauses. We further demonstrate a non-linear amplification of these transient pauses by the controlled binding of the HRDC domain. The resulting DNA sequence- and geometry-dependent pausing may underlie a homology sensing mechanism that allows rapid disruption of unstable (illegitimate) and stabilization of stable (legitimate) DNA strand invasions, which suggests an intrinsic mechanism of recombination quality control by RecQ helicases.