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DNA Repair (Amst). 2004 May 4;3(5):475-82.

The Werner syndrome protein has separable recombination and survival functions.

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Department of Pathology, University of Washington, Box 357705, Seattle, WA 98195-7705, USA.


The Werner syndrome (WS) protein WRN is unique in possessing a 3' to 5' exonuclease activity in addition to the 3' to 5' helicase activity characteristic of other RecQ proteins. In order to determine in vivo functions of the WRN catalytic activities and their roles in Werner syndrome pathogenesis, we quantified cell survival and homologous recombination after DNA damage in cells expressing WRN missense-mutant proteins that lacked exonuclease and/or helicase activity. Both WRN biochemical activities were required to generate viable recombinant daughter cells. In contrast, either activity was sufficient to promote cell survival after DNA damage in the absence of recombination. These results indicate that WRN has recombination and survival functions that can be separated by missense mutations. Two implications are that Werner syndrome most likely results from the loss of both activities and their associated functions from patient cells, and that WRN missense mutations or polymorphisms could promote genetic instability and cancer in the general population by selectively interfering with recombination in somatic cells.

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