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J Biol Chem. 2003 Dec 26;278(52):53007-16. Epub 2003 Oct 8.

Detection of protein folding defects caused by BRCA1-BRCT truncation and missense mutations.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2H7, Canada.


Most cancer-associated BRCA1 mutations identified to date result in the premature translational termination of the protein, highlighting a crucial role for the C-terminal, BRCT repeat region in mediating BRCA1 tumor suppressor function. However, the molecular and genetic effects of missense mutations that map to the BRCT region remain largely unknown. Using a protease-based assay, we directly assessed the sensitivity of the folding of the BRCT domain to an extensive set of truncation and single amino acid substitutions derived from breast cancer screening programs. The protein can tolerate truncations of up to 8 amino acids, but further deletion results in drastic BRCT folding defects. This molecular phenotype can be correlated with an increased susceptibility to disease. A cross-validated computational assessment of the BRCT mutation data base suggests that as much as half of all BRCT missense mutations contribute to BRCA1 loss of function and disease through protein-destabilizing effects. The coupled use of proteolytic methods and computational predictive methods to detect mutant BRCA1 conformations at the protein level will augment the efficacy of current BRCA1 screening protocols, especially in the absence of clinical data that can be used to discriminate deleterious BRCT missense mutations from benign polymorphisms.

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