The overall vision for our research is to discover novel mechanisms by which histone and non-histone proteins on DNA, i.e. chromatin, regulate genomic processes and aging. In particular, we strive to integrate different fields, such as the role of chromatin in genome stability and the role of chromatin in aging. Using a combination of biochemistry, structural biology, molecular genetics in budding yeast, tissue culture and genome-wide approaches, we have discovered that chromatin is disassembled and reassembled during not only gene expression and DNA replication but also during DNA double-strand break repair. We have revealed the mechanistic bases for these events and their key impact on these genomic processes. In more recent years, we have expanded the questions that we address beyond chromatin ? for example uncovering novel mechanistic bases of aging and discovering new ways to extend lifespan. Similarly, inspired by our recent finding that chromatin structure reduces the processing of DNA double-strand breaks to single-strand DNA (termed DNA end resection), we have devised innovative CRISPR/Cas9 gRNA library screening approaches to identify novel activities that regulate DNA end resection during DNA double-strand repair. Most of the cells in the human body are in G0/G1-phase and it is critical that excessive DNA end resection does not occur in these cells. If it were to occur, it would block DNA repair by the only pathway that is used to repair DNA double-strand breaks in G0/G1-phase cells, namely non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), and it would result in translocations and deletions from the ensuing homology-mediated repair. Indeed, the extent of DNA end resection is the critical decision point in the choice between using the NHEJ or homologous recombination (HR) pathway for repairing DNA double-strand breaks. We propose that mechanisms must be in place that limit excessive DNA end resection in G0/G1-phase cells to prevent HR, yet enable sufficient DNA end processing of un-ligatable DNA ends to allow NHEJ-mediated repair. The proteins and pathways that regulate the extent of DNA end resection in G0/G1-phase cells are currently unknown. Thus, a major goal of this program is to discover the machinery and mechanisms that regulate DNA end resection in G0/G1-phase cells. We are uniquely positioned to do this, based on our expertise, novel genetic screening approach and compelling preliminary data. Another critical, yet poorly understood, aspect of genome maintenance is how gene expression is ?shut-off? in the vicinity of a DNA lesion to prevent collisions between the transcription and DNA repair machinery. Similarly, it is crucial that transcription is restarting after DNA double-strand break repair, but the mechanism is unknown. We have recently discovered some of the proteins involved using our novel assays and genetic screens, so the second major goal of this program is to discover the fundamental mechanisms of transcriptional shut-off and restart around DNA double-strand breaks.
The maintenance of genomic integrity is critical to limit human genetic disease. However key aspects of genome maintenance are poorly understood. The proposed research will reveal novel mechanisms that prevent homologous recombination occurring in G1 phase cells and the mechanisms that prevent ongoing transcription interfering with DNA repair.