In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the essential mismatch repair (MMR) endonuclease Mlh1-Pms1 forms foci promoted by Msh2-Msh6 or Msh2-Msh3 in response to mispaired bases. Here we analyzed the Mlh1-Mlh2 complex, whose role in MMR has been unclear. Mlh1-Mlh2 formed foci that often colocalized with and had a longer lifetime than Mlh1-Pms1 foci. Mlh1-Mlh2 foci were similar to Mlh1-Pms1 foci: they required mispair recognition by Msh2-Msh6, increased in response to increased mispairs or downstream defects in MMR, and formed after induction of DNA damage by phleomycin but not double-stranded breaks by I- SceI. Mlh1-Mlh2 could be recruited to mispair-containing DNA in vitro by either Msh2-Msh6 or Msh2-Msh3. Deletion of MLH2 caused a synergistic increase in mutation rate in combination with deletion of MSH6 or reduced expression of Pms1. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that the S. cerevisiae Mlh2 protein and the mammalian PMS1 protein are homologs. These results support a hypothesis that Mlh1-Mlh2 is a non-essential accessory factor that acts to enhance the activity of Mlh1-Pms1.
Lynch syndrome (hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer or HNPCC) is a common cancer predisposition syndrome. In this syndrome, predisposition to cancer results from increased accumulation of mutations due to defective mismatch repair (MMR) caused by a mutation in one of the human mismatch repair genes MLH1, MSH2, MSH6 or PMS2. In addition to these genes, various DNA replication factors and the excision factor EXO1 function in the repair of damaged DNA by the MMR pathway. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the MLH2 gene encodes a MutL homolog protein whose role in DNA mismatch repair has been unclear. Here, we used phylogenetic analysis to demonstrate that the S. cerevisiae Mlh2 protein and the mammalian Pms1 protein are homologs. A combination of genetics, biochemistry and imaging studies were used to demonstrate that the Mlh1-Mlh2 complex is recruited to mispair-containing DNA by the Msh2-Msh6 and Msh2-Msh3 mispair recognition complexes where it forms foci that colocalize with Mlh1-Pms1 foci (note that scPms1 is the homolog of hPms2) and augments the function of the Mlh1-Pms1 complex. Thus, this work establishes the Mlh1-Mlh2 complex as a non-essential accessory factor that functions in MMR.