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Title: Novel genetic and molecular properties of meiotic recombination protein PRDM9
Author: Altemose, Nicolas Frank
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 6822
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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Meiotic recombination is a fundamental biological process in sexually reproducing organisms, enabling offspring to inherit novel combinations of mutations, and ensuring even segregation of chromosomes into gametes. Recombination is initiated by programmed Double Strand Breaks (DSBs), the genomic locations of which are determined in most mammals by PRDM9, a rapidly evolving DNA-binding protein. In crosses between different mouse subspecies, certain Prdm9 alleles cause infertility in hybrid males, implying a critical role in fertility and speciation. Upon binding to DNA, PRDM9 deposits a histone modification (H3K4me3) typically found in the promoters of expressed genes, suggesting that binding might alter the expression of nearby genes. Many other questions have remained about how PRDM9 initiates recombination, how it causes speciation, and why it evolves so rapidly. This body of work investigates these questions using complementary experimental and analytical methodologies. By generating a map of human PRDM9 binding sites and applying novel sequence analysis methods, I uncovered new DNA-binding modalities of PRDM9 and identified sequence-independent factors that predict binding and recombination outcomes. I also confirmed that PRDM9 can affect gene expression by binding to promoters, identifying candidate regulatory targets in meiosis. Furthermore, I showed that PRDM9’s DNA-binding domain also mediates strong protein-protein interactions that produce PRDM9 multimers, which may play an important functional role. Finally, by generating high-resolution maps of PRDM9 binding in hybrid mice, I provide evidence for a mechanism to explain PRDM9-mediated speciation as a consequence of the joint evolution of PRDM9 and its binding targets. This work reveals that PRDM9 binding on one chromosome strongly impacts DSB formation and/or repair on the homologue, suggesting a novel role for PRDM9 in promoting efficient homology search and DSB repair, both critical for meiotic progression and fertility. One consequence is that PRDM9 may play a wider role in mammalian speciation.
Supervisor: Myers, Simon Robert Sponsor: Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellowship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Genetic recombination ; Genetics ; Molecular biology ; Evolution (Biology) ; Meiosis ; PRDM9 ; Recombination hotspots ; Zinc-finger protein