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This article is the author's final published version in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Volume 120, Issue 33, 2023, Article number e2302103120.

The published version is available at Copyright © 2023 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.


Human genome-wide association studies have identified FAN1 and several DNA mismatch repair (MMR) genes as modifiers of Huntington’s disease age of onset. In animal models, FAN1 prevents somatic expansion of CAG triplet repeats, whereas MMR proteins promote this process. To understand the molecular basis of these opposing effects, we evaluated FAN1 nuclease function on DNA extrahelical extrusions that represent key intermediates in triplet repeat expansion. Here, we describe a strand-directed, extrusion-provoked nuclease function of FAN1 that is activated by RFC, PCNA, and ATP at physiological ionic strength. Activation of FAN1 in this manner results in DNA cleavage in the vicinity of triplet repeat extrahelical extrusions thereby leading to their removal in human cell extracts. The role of PCNA and RFC is to confer strand directionality to the FAN1 nuclease, and this reaction requires a physical interaction between PCNA and FAN1. Using cell extracts, we show that FAN1-dependent CAG extrusion removal relies on a very short patch excision-repair mechanism that competes with MutSβ-dependent MMR which is characterized by longer excision tracts. These results provide a mechanistic basis for the role of FAN1 in preventing repeat expansion and could explain the antagonistic effects of MMR and FAN1 in disease onset/progression.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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