Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Molecular and Cellular Biology

First Advisor

Wold, Marc S

First Committee Member

Washington, Todd

Second Committee Member

Quelle, Dawn

Third Committee Member

Goswami, Prabhat

Fourth Committee Member

Malone, Robert


Replication Protein A (RPA), the major eukaryotic single-strand DNA (ssDNA) binding protein, is essential for replication, repair, recombination, and checkpoint activation. Defects in RPA-associated cellular activities lead to genomic instability, a major factor in the pathogenesis of cancer. The ssDNA-binding activity of RPA is primarily mediated by two domains in the RPA1 subunit. I characterized mutant forms of RPA to elucidate the contribution of specific residues in the high affinity DNA binding domains to the cellular function of RPA. These studies enhance the understanding of the properties of RPA that contribute to DNA repair and cellular checkpoints.

Mutation of a conserved leucine residue to proline in the high-affinity DNA binding site of RPA (residue L221 in human RPA) has been shown to have a high rate of chromosomal rearrangements in yeast and mice. I characterized the equivalent mutation in human RPA. My studies show that the mutation causes a defect in ssDNA binding and a nonfunctional protein. Combined with the mice studies, the data suggest that haploinsufficiency of RPA causes an increase in DNA damage and in the incidence of cancer.

The ssDNA-interactions of the high affinity binding domains in RPA1 are mediated by several residues including four highly conserved aromatic residues. Mutation of these residues had no effect on DNA replication but caused defects in DNA repair pathways. I conclude that DNA intermediates in different DNA metabolic pathways require different RPA binding functions and that the aromatic residues are indispensable for binding in DNA repair.

These studies illustrate that different DNA metabolic pathways have distinct requirements for RPA function. A decrease in binding to ssDNA of any length has specific consequences in vivo. These data also demonstrate that a single mutation in RPA in a residue that does not even contact ssDNA can result in a non-functional RPA complex. I conclude that even a modest decrease in RPA protein levels is not compatible with long term cell survival. Taken together, these studies highlight the importance of proper regulation of RPA protein levels and its ssDNA binding affinity to proper maintenance of the integrity of the genome.


Cell checkpoints, DNA damage response, DNA repair, DNA replication, ssDNA binding


xiv, 176 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 167-176).


Copyright 2012 Cathy Staloch Hass

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Cell Biology Commons