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Cancer Res. 2013 Sep 1;73(17):5497-507. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-2975. Epub 2013 Jul 18.

Werner syndrome helicase has a critical role in DNA damage responses in the absence of a functional fanconi anemia pathway.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Gerontology, National Institute on Aging, NIH Biomedical Research Center, NIH, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


Werner syndrome is genetically linked to mutations in WRN that encodes a DNA helicase-nuclease believed to operate at stalled replication forks. Using a newly identified small-molecule inhibitor of WRN helicase (NSC 617145), we investigated the role of WRN in the interstrand cross-link (ICL) response in cells derived from patients with Fanconi anemia, a hereditary disorder characterized by bone marrow failure and cancer. In FA-D2(-/-) cells, NSC 617145 acted synergistically with very low concentrations of mitomycin C to inhibit proliferation in a WRN-dependent manner and induce double-strand breaks (DSB) and chromosomal abnormalities. Under these conditions, ataxia-telangiectasia mutated activation and accumulation of DNA-dependent protein kinase, catalytic subunit pS2056 foci suggested an increased number of DSBs processed by nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ). Rad51 foci were also elevated in FA-D2(-/-) cells exposed to NSC 617145 and mitomycin C, suggesting that WRN helicase inhibition interferes with later steps of homologous recombination at ICL-induced DSBs. Thus, when the Fanconi anemia pathway is defective, WRN helicase inhibition perturbs the normal ICL response, leading to NHEJ activation. Potential implication for treatment of Fanconi anemia-deficient tumors by their sensitization to DNA cross-linking agents is discussed.

©2013 AACR.

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