Nucleic acids research

The DNA-protein interaction modes of FEN-1 with gap substrates and their implication in preventing duplication mutations.

PMID 16582103


Flap endonuclease-1 (FEN-1) is a structure-specific nuclease best known for its involvement in RNA primer removal and long-patch base excision repair. This enzyme is known to possess 5'-flap endo- (FEN) and 5'-3' exo- (EXO) nuclease activities. Recently, FEN-1 has been reported to also possess a gap endonuclease (GEN) activity, which is possibly involved in apoptotic DNA fragmentation and the resolution of stalled DNA replication forks. In the current study, we compare the kinetics of these activities to shed light on the aspects of DNA structure and FEN-1 DNA-binding elements that affect substrate cleavage. By using DNA binding deficient mutants of FEN-1, we determine that the GEN activity is analogous to FEN activity in that the single-stranded DNA region of DNA substrates interacts with the clamp region of FEN-1. In addition, we show that the C-terminal extension of human FEN-1 likely interacts with the downstream duplex portion of all substrates. Taken together, a substrate-binding model that explains how FEN-1, which has a single active center, can have seemingly different activities is proposed. Furthermore, based on the evidence that GEN activity in complex with WRN protein cleaves hairpin and internal loop substrates, we suggest that the GEN activity may prevent repeat expansions and duplication mutations.