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Möckel, Carolin (2011): Structural and functional analysis of ATP dependent conformational changes in the bacterial Mre11:Rad50 catalytic head complex. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy
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Abstract

The integrity of the genome displays a central role for all living organisms. Double strand breaks (DSBs) are probably the most cytotoxic and hazardous type of DNA lesion and are linked to cancerogenic chromosome aberrations in humans. To maintain genome stability, cells use various repair mechanisms, including homologous recombination (HR) and non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) pathways. The Mre11:Rad50 (MR) complex plays a crucial role in DSB repair processes including DSB sensing and processing but also tethering of DNA ends. The complex consists of the evolutionarily conserved core of two Rad50 ATPases from which a long coiled-coil region protrudes and a dimer of the Mre11 nuclease. Even though various enzymatic and also structural functions of MR(N) could be determined, so far the molecular interplay of Rad50´s ATPase together with DNA binding and processing by Mre11 is rather unclear. The crystal structure of the bacterial MR complex in its nucleotide free state revealed an elongated conformation with accessible Mre11 nuclease sites in the center and a Rad50 monomer on each outer tip, thus suggesting conformational changes upon ATP and/or DNA binding. However, so far high resolution structures of MR in its ATP and/or DNA bound state are lacking. The aim of this work was to understand the ATP-dependent engagement-disengagement cycle of Rad50´s nucleotide binding domains (NBDs) and thereby the ATP-controlled interaction between Mre11 and Rad50. For this purpose high resolution crystal structures of the bacterial Thermotoga maritima (Tm) MR complex with engaged Rad50 NBDs were determined. Small angle x-ray scattering proved the conformation of the nucleotide bound complex in solution. DNA affinity was also analyzed to investigate MR´s DNA binding mechanism. ATP binding to TmRad50 induces a large structural change and surprisingly, the NBD dimer binds directly in the Mre11 DNA binding cleft, thereby blocking Mre11’s dsDNA binding sites. DNA binding studies show that MR does not entrap DNA in a ring-like structure and that within the complex Rad50 likely forms a dsDNA binding site in response to ATP, while the Mre11 nuclease module retains ssDNA binding ability. Finally, a possible mechanism for ATP dependent DNA tethering and DSB processing by MR is proposed.