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Concept: Homologous recombination


Repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) by homologous recombination requires resection of 5'-termini to generate 3'-single-strand DNA tails. Key components of this reaction are exonuclease 1 and the bifunctional endo/exonuclease, Mre11 (refs 2-4). Mre11 endonuclease activity is critical when DSB termini are blocked by bound protein–such as by the DNA end-joining complex, topoisomerases or the meiotic transesterase Spo11 (refs 7-13)–but a specific function for the Mre11 3'-5' exonuclease activity has remained elusive. Here we use Saccharomyces cerevisiae to reveal a role for the Mre11 exonuclease during the resection of Spo11-linked 5'-DNA termini in vivo. We show that the residual resection observed in Exo1-mutant cells is dependent on Mre11, and that both exonuclease activities are required for efficient DSB repair. Previous work has indicated that resection traverses unidirectionally. Using a combination of physical assays for 5'-end processing, our results indicate an alternative mechanism involving bidirectional resection. First, Mre11 nicks the strand to be resected up to 300 nucleotides from the 5'-terminus of the DSB–much further away than previously assumed. Second, this nick enables resection in a bidirectional manner, using Exo1 in the 5'-3' direction away from the DSB, and Mre11 in the 3'-5' direction towards the DSB end. Mre11 exonuclease activity also confers resistance to DNA damage in cycling cells, suggesting that Mre11-catalysed resection may be a general feature of various DNA repair pathways.

Concepts: Adenosine triphosphate, BRCA1, Genetic recombination, Genetics, Gene, Homologous recombination, DNA repair, DNA


Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a rare, aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure. An inherited predisposition has been suggested to explain multiple cases in the same family and the observation that not all individuals highly exposed to asbestos develop the tumor. Germline mutations in BAP1 are responsible for a rare cancer predisposition syndrome that includes predisposition to mesothelioma. We hypothesized that other genes involved in hereditary cancer syndromes could be responsible for the inherited mesothelioma predisposition. We investigated the prevalence of germline variants in 94 cancer-predisposing genes in 93 MPM patients with a quantified asbestos exposure. Ten pathogenic truncating variants (PTVs) were identified in PALB2, BRCA1, FANCI, ATM, SLX4, BRCA2, FANCC, FANCF, PMS1 and XPC. All these genes are involved in DNA repair pathways, mostly in homologous recombination repair. Patients carrying PTVs represented 9.7% of the panel and showed lower asbestos exposure than did all the other patients (p=0.0015). This suggests that they did not efficiently repair the DNA damage induced by asbestos and leading to carcinogenesis. This study shows that germline variants in several genes may increase MPM susceptibility in the presence of asbestos exposure and may be important for specific treatment.

Concepts: Bacteria, Mutation, BRCA1, Cancer, Evolution, Homologous recombination, DNA, DNA repair


DNA interstrand cross-links (ICLs) block replication fork progression by inhibiting DNA strand separation. Repair of ICLs requires sequential incisions, translesion DNA synthesis, and homologous recombination, but the full set of factors involved in these transactions remains unknown. We devised a technique called chromatin mass spectrometry (CHROMASS) to study protein recruitment dynamics during perturbed DNA replication in Xenopus egg extracts. Using CHROMASS, we systematically monitored protein assembly and disassembly on ICL-containing chromatin. Among numerous prospective DNA repair factors, we identified SLF1 and SLF2, which form a complex with RAD18 and together define a pathway that suppresses genome instability by recruiting the SMC5/6 cohesion complex to DNA lesions. Our study provides a global analysis of an entire DNA repair pathway and reveals the mechanism of SMC5/6 relocalization to damaged DNA in vertebrate cells.

Concepts: Genetic recombination, Homologous recombination, Cell nucleus, Protein, Gene, DNA replication, DNA repair, DNA


The telomere end-protection problem is defined by the aggregate of DNA damage signaling and repair pathways that require repression at telomeres. To define the end-protection problem, we removed the whole shelterin complex from mouse telomeres through conditional deletion of TRF1 and TRF2 in nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) deficient cells. The data reveal two DNA damage response pathways not previously observed upon deletion of individual shelterin proteins. The shelterin-free telomeres are processed by microhomology-mediated alternative-NHEJ when Ku70/80 is absent and are attacked by nucleolytic degradation in the absence of 53BP1. The data establish that the end-protection problem is specified by six pathways [ATM (ataxia telangiectasia mutated) and ATR (ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3 related) signaling, classical-NHEJ, alt-NHEJ, homologous recombination, and resection] and show how shelterin acts with general DNA damage response factors to solve this problem.

Concepts: BRCA1, Genetics, Telomere, Homologous recombination, DNA replication, Non-homologous end joining, DNA repair, DNA


Non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) is one of the major pathways that repairs double-stranded DNA breaks (DSBs). Activation of DNA-PK is required for NHEJ. However, the mechanism leading to DNA-PKcs activation remains incompletely understood. We provide evidence here that the MEK-ERK pathway plays a role in DNA-PKcs-mediated NHEJ. In comparison to the vehicle control (DMSO), etoposide (ETOP)-induced DSBs in MCF7 cells were more rapidly repaired in the presence of U0126, a specific MEK inhibitor, based on the reduction of γH2AX and tail moments. Additionally, U0126 increased reactivation of luciferase activity, which resulted from the repair of restriction enzyme-cleaved DSBs. Furthermore, while inhibition of ERK activation using the dominant-negative MEK1K97M accelerated the repair of DSBs, enforcing ERK activation with the constitutively active MEK1Q56P reduced DSB repair. In line with MEK activating ERK1 and ERK2 kinases, knockdown of either ERK1 or ERK2 increased DSB repair. Consistent with the activation of DNA-PKcs being required for NHEJ, we demonstrated that inhibition of ERK activation using U0126, MEK1K97M, and knockdown of ERK1 or ERK2 enhanced ETOP-induced activation of DNA-PKcs. Conversely, enforcing ERK activation by MEK1Q56P reduced ETOP-initiated DNA-PKcs activation. Taken together, we demonstrate that ERK reduces NHEJ-mediated repair of DSBs via attenuation of DNA-PKcs activation.

Concepts: Enzyme, Homologous recombination, DNA repair, Telomere, Adenosine triphosphate, DNA-PKcs, Non-homologous end joining, DNA


Our study was to elucidate the mechanisms whereby BMS-345541 (BMS, a specific IκB kinase β inhibitor) inhibits the repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) and evaluate whether BMS can sensitize MCF-7 breast cancer cells (MCF-7 cells) to ionizing radiation (IR) in an apoptosis-independent manner. In this study, MCF-7 cells were exposed to IR in vitro and in vivo with or without pretreatment of BMS. The effects of BMS on the repair of IR-induced DSBs by homologous recombination (HR) and non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) were analyzed by the DR-GFP and EJ5-GFP reporter assays and IR-induced γ-H2AX, 53BP1, Brca1 and Rad51 foci assays. The mechanisms by which BMS inhibits HR were examined by microarray analysis and quantitative reverse transcription PCR. The effects of BMS on the sensitivity of MCF-7 cells to IR were determined by MTT and clonogenic assays in vitro and tumor growth inhibition in vivo in a xenograft mouse model. The results showed that BMS selectively inhibited HR repair of DSBs in MCF-7 cells, most likely by down-regulation of several genes that participate in HR. This resulted in a significant increase in the DNA damage response that sensitizes MCF-7 cells to IR-induced cell death in an apoptosis-independent manner. Furthermore, BMS treatment sensitized MCF-7 xenograft tumors to radiation therapy in vivo in an association with a significant delay in the repair of IR-induced DSBs. These data suggest that BMS is a novel HR inhibitor that has the potential to be used as a radiosensitizer to increase the responsiveness of cancer to radiotherapy. © 2013 by Radiation Research Society.

Concepts: Non-homologous end joining, BRCA1, Ionizing radiation, Radiation therapy, Homologous recombination, DNA repair, DNA, Cancer


The tumour suppressor complex BRCA1-BARD1 functions in the repair of DNA double-stranded breaks by homologous recombination. During this process, BRCA1-BARD1 facilitates the nucleolytic resection of DNA ends to generate a single-stranded template for the recruitment of another tumour suppressor complex, BRCA2-PALB2, and the recombinase RAD51. Here, by examining purified wild-type and mutant BRCA1-BARD1, we show that both BRCA1 and BARD1 bind DNA and interact with RAD51, and that BRCA1-BARD1 enhances the recombinase activity of RAD51. Mechanistically, BRCA1-BARD1 promotes the assembly of the synaptic complex, an essential intermediate in RAD51-mediated DNA joint formation. We provide evidence that BRCA1 and BARD1 are indispensable for RAD51 stimulation. Notably, BRCA1-BARD1 mutants with weakened RAD51 interactions show compromised DNA joint formation and impaired mediation of homologous recombination and DNA repair in cells. Our results identify a late role of BRCA1-BARD1 in homologous recombination, an attribute of the tumour suppressor complex that could be targeted in cancer therapy.

Concepts: BRCA2, Genetics, DNA repair, Genetic recombination, BRCA1, Gene, Homologous recombination, DNA


DNA repair, one of the fundamental processes occurring in a cell, safeguards the genome and maintains its integrity. Among various DNA lesions, double-strand breaks (DSBs) are considered to be the most deleterious, as they can lead to potential loss of genetic information, if not repaired. Nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) and homologous recombination (HR) are two major DSB repair pathways. SCR7, a DNA Ligase IV inhibitor, was recently identified and characterized as a potential anti-cancer compound. Interestingly, SCR7 was shown to possess several applications owing to its unique property as an NHEJ inhibitor. Here, we focus on three main areas of research in which SCR7 is actively being used, and discuss one of the applications, viz. genome editing via CRISPR-Cas, in detail. In past one year, different studies have shown that SCR7 significantly increased the efficiency of precise genome editing by inhibiting NHEJ, and favoring the error free HR pathway, both in vitro and in vivo. Overall, we discuss the current applications of SCR7 to shed light on the unique property of the small molecule, to have distinct applications in case of normal and cancer cells, when used at different cellular concentrations. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Non-homologous end joining, Copyright, Homologous recombination, Gene, DNA ligase, DNA repair, Genetics, DNA


To avoid cell cycle arrest or apoptosis, rapidly proliferating cancer cells have to promote DNA double strand break (DSB) repair to fix replication stress induced DSBs. Therefore, developing drugs blocking homologous recombination (HR) and nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) - two major DSB repair pathways - holds great potential for cancer therapy. Over the last few decades, much attention has been paid to explore drugs targeting DSB repair pathways for cancer therapy. Here, using two well-established reporters for analyzing HR and NHEJ efficiency, we found that both HR and NHEJ are elevated in hepatoma cell lines Hep3B and HuH7 compared with normal liver cell lines Chang liver and QSG-7701. Our further study found that Harmine, a natural compound, negatively regulates HR but not NHEJ by interfering Rad51 recruitment, resulting in severe cytotoxicity in hepatoma cells. Furthermore, NHEJ inhibitor Nu7441 markedly sensitizes Hep3B cells to the anti-proliferative effects of Harmine. Taken together, our study suggested that Harmine holds great promise as an oncologic drug and combination of Harmine with a NHEJ inhibitor might be an effective strategy for anti-cancer treatment.

Concepts: Cell cycle, Cell division, Genetics, Homologous recombination, Cancer, DNA repair, DNA replication, DNA


Long inverted repeats (LIRs) have been shown to induce genomic deletions in yeast. In this study, LIRs were investigated within ±10 kb spanning each breakpoint from 109 human gross deletions, using Inverted Repeat Finder (IRF) software. LIR number was significantly higher at the breakpoint regions, than in control segments (P < 0.001). In addition, it was found that strong correlation between 5' and 3' LIR numbers, suggesting contribution to DNA sequence evolution (r = 0.85, P < 0.001). 138 LIR features at ±3 kb breakpoints in 89 (81%) of 109 gross deletions were evaluated. Significant correlations were found between distance from breakpoint and loop length (r = -0.18, P < 0.05) and stem length (r = -0.18, P < 0.05), suggesting DNA strands are potentially broken in locations closer to bigger LIRs. In addition, bigger loops cause larger deletions (r = 0.19, P < 0.05). Moreover, loop length (r = 0.29, P < 0.02) and identity between stem copies (r = 0.30, P < 0.05) of 3' LIRs were more important in larger deletions. Consequently, DNA breaks may form via LIR-induced cruciform structure during replication. DNA ends may be later repaired by non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ), with following deletion.

Concepts: DNA repair, Chromosome, Gene, Homologous recombination, Stem-loop, Genetics, Genome, DNA