Neuronal accumulation of unrepaired DNA in a novel specific chromatin domain: structural, molecular and transcriptional characterization

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Abstract

There is growing evidence that defective DNA repair in neurons with accumulation of DNA lesions and loss of genome integrity underlies aging and many neurodegenerative disorders. An important challenge is to understand how neurons can tolerate the accumulation of persistent DNA lesions without triggering the apoptotic pathway. Here we study the impact of the accumulation of unrepaired DNA on the chromatin architecture, kinetics of the DNA damage response and transcriptional activity in rat sensory ganglion neurons exposed to 1-to-3 doses of ionizing radiation (IR). In particular, we have characterized the structural, molecular and transcriptional compartmentalization of unrepaired DNA in persistent DNA damaged foci (PDDF). IR induced the formation of numerous transient foci, which repaired DNA within the 24 h post-IR, and a 1-to-3 PDDF. The latter concentrate DNA damage signaling and repair factors, including γH2AX, pATM, WRAP53 and 53BP1. The number and size of PDDF was dependent on the doses of IR administered. The proportion of neurons carrying PDDF decreased over time of post-IR, indicating that a slow DNA repair occurs in some foci. The fine structure of PDDF consisted of a loose network of unfolded 30 nm chromatin fiber intermediates, which may provide a structural scaffold accessible for DNA repair factors. Furthermore, the transcription assay demonstrated that PDDF are transcriptionally silent, although transcription occurred in flanking euchromatin. Therefore, the expression of γH2AX can be used as a reliable marker of gene silencing in DNA damaged neurons. Moreover, PDDF were located in repressive nuclear environments, preferentially in the perinucleolar domain where they were frequently associated with Cajal bodies or heterochromatin clumps forming a structural triad. We propose that the sequestration of unrepaired DNA in discrete PDDF and the transcriptional silencing can be essential to preserve genome stability and prevent the synthesis of aberrant mRNA and protein products encoded by damaged genes.

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Mata-Garrido, J., Casafont, I., Tapia, O., Berciano, M. T., & Lafarga, M. (2016). Neuronal accumulation of unrepaired DNA in a novel specific chromatin domain: structural, molecular and transcriptional characterization. Acta Neuropathologica Communications, 4, 41. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40478-016-0312-9

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