ATR Protects the Genome against R Loops through a MUS81-Triggered Feedback Loop.Mol Cell 2019MC
R loops arising during transcription induce genomic instability, but how cells respond to the R loop-associated genomic stress is still poorly understood. Here, we show that cells harboring high levels of R loops rely on the ATR kinase for survival. In response to aberrant R loop accumulation, the ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3-related (ATR)-Chk1 pathway is activated by R loop-induced reversed replication forks. In contrast to the activation of ATR by replication inhibitors, R loop-induced ATR activation requires the MUS81 endonuclease. ATR protects the genome from R loops by suppressing transcription-replication collisions, promoting replication fork recovery, and enforcing a G2/M cell-cycle arrest. Furthermore, ATR prevents excessive cleavage of reversed forks by MUS81, revealing a MUS81-triggered and ATR-mediated feedback loop that fine-tunes MUS81 activity at replication forks. These results suggest that ATR is a key sensor and suppressor of R loop-induced genomic instability, uncovering a signaling circuitry that safeguards the genome against R loops.