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Chromosomal instability (CIN) drives cell-to-cell heterogeneity, and the development of genetic diseases, including cancer. Impaired homologous recombination (HR) has been implicated as a major driver of CIN, however, the underlying mechanism remains unclear. Using a fission yeast model system, we establish a common role for HR genes in suppressing DNA double-strand break (DSB)-induced CIN. Further, we show that an unrepaired single-ended DSB arising from failed HR repair or telomere loss is a potent driver of widespread CIN. Inherited chromosomes carrying a single-ended DSB are subject to cycles of DNA replication and extensive end-processing across successive cell divisions. These cycles are enabled by Cullin 3-mediated Chk1 loss and checkpoint adaptation. Subsequent propagation of unstable chromosomes carrying a single-ended DSB continues until transgenerational end-resection leads to fold-back inversion of single-stranded centromeric repeats and to stable chromosomal rearrangements, typically isochromosomes, or to chromosomal loss. These findings reveal a mechanism by which HR genes suppress CIN and how DNA breaks that persist through mitotic divisions propagate cell-to-cell heterogeneity in the resultant progeny.

Original publication




Journal article


Nucleic Acids Res

Publication Date