Ultraviolet (UV) induces pyrimidine dimers (PDs) in DNA and replication-dependent fragmentation in chromosomes. The rnhAB mutants in Escherichia coli, accumulating R-loops and single DNA-rNs, are generally resistant to DNA damage, but are surprisingly UV-sensitive, even though they remove PDs normally, suggesting irreparable chromosome lesions. We show here that the RNase H defect does not cause additional chromosome fragmentation after UV, but inhibits DNA synthesis after replication restart. Genetic analysis implies formation of R-loop-anchored transcription elongation complexes (R-loop-aTECs) in UV-irradiated rnhAB mutants, predicting that their chromosomal DNA will accumulate: (i) RNA:DNA hybrids; (ii) a few slow-to-remove PDs. We confirm both features and also find that both, surprisingly, depend on replication restart. Finally, enriching for the UV-induced RNA:DNA hybrids in the rnhAB uvrA mutants also co-enriches for PDs, showing their co-residence in the same structures. We propose that PD-triggered R-loop-aTECs block head-on replication in RNase H-deficient mutants.
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