In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, inactivation of base excision repair (BER) AP endonucleases (Apn1p and Apn2p) results in constitutive phosphorylation of Rad53p and delay in cell cycle progression at the G2/M transition. These data led us to investigate genetic interactions between Apn1p, Apn2p and DNA damage checkpoint proteins. The results show that mec1 sml1, rad53 sml1 and rad9 is synthetic lethal with apn1 apn2. In contrast, apn1 apn2 rad17, apn1 apn2 ddc1 and apn1 apn2 rad24 triple mutants are viable, although they exhibit a strong Can(R) spontaneous mutator phenotype. In these strains, high Can(R) mutation rate is dependent upon functional uracil DNA N-glycosylase (Ung1p) and mutation spectra are dominated by AT to CG events. The results point to a role for Rad17-Mec3-Ddc1 (9-1-1) checkpoint clamp in the prevention of mutations caused by abasic (AP) sites linked to incorporation of dUTP into DNA followed by the excision of uracil by Ung1p. The antimutator role of the (9-1-1) clamp can either rely on its essential function in the induction of the DNA damage checkpoint or to another function that specifically impacts DNA repair and/or mutagenesis at AP sites. Here, we show that the abrogation of the DNA damage checkpoint is not sufficient to enhance spontaneous mutagenesis in the apn1 apn2 rad9 sml1 quadruple mutant. Spontaneous mutagenesis was also explored in strains deficient in the two major DNA N-glycosylases/AP-lyases (Ntg1p and Ntg2p). Indeed, apn1 apn2 ntg1 ntg2 exhibits a strong Ung1p-dependent Can(R) mutator phenotype with a spectrum enriched in AT to CG, like apn1 apn2 rad17. However, genetic analysis reveals that ntg1 ntg2 and rad17 are not epistatic for spontaneous mutagenesis in apn1 apn2. We conclude that under normal growth conditions, dUTP incorporation into DNA is a major source of AP sites that cause high genetic instability in the absence of BER factors (Apn1p, Apn2p, Ntg1p and Ntg2p) and Rad17-Mec3-Ddc1 (9-1-1) checkpoint clamp in yeast.
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