Homologous recombination (HR) is a major pathway for the elimination of DNA DSBs (double-strand breaks) induced by high-energy radiation and chemicals, or that arise due to endogenous damage and stalled DNA replication forks. If not processed properly, DSBs can lead to cell death, chromosome aberrations and tumorigenesis. Even though HR is important for genome maintenance, it can also interfere with other DNA repair mechanisms and cause gross chromosome rearrangements. In addition, HR can generate DNA or nucleoprotein intermediates that elicit prolonged cell-cycle arrest and sometimes cell death. Genetic analyses in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae have revealed a central role of the Srs2 helicase in preventing untimely HR events and in inhibiting the formation of potentially deleterious DNA structures or nucleoprotein complexes upon DNA replication stress. Paradoxically, efficient repair of DNA DSBs by HR is dependent on Srs2. In this paper, we review recent molecular studies aimed at deciphering the multifaceted role of Srs2 in HR and other cellular processes. These studies have provided critical insights into how HR is regulated in order to preserve genomic integrity and promote cell survival.

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