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Cancer Res. 2005 Dec 15;65(24):11384-91.

BRCA1 regulates RAD51 function in response to DNA damage and suppresses spontaneous sister chromatid replication slippage: implications for sister chromatid cohesion, genome stability, and carcinogenesis.

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Molecular Biology Program and Department of Biochemistry, Université de Montréal, Quebec, Canada.


The breast/ovarian cancer susceptibility proteins BRCA1 and BRCA2 maintain genome stability, at least in part, through a functional role in DNA damage repair. They both colocalize with RAD51 at sites of DNA damage/replication and activate RAD51-mediated homologous recombination repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSB). Whereas BRCA2 interacts directly with and regulates RAD51, the role of BRCA1 in this process is unclear. However, BRCA1 may regulate RAD51 in response to DNA damage or through its ability to interact with and regulate MRE11/RAD50/NBS1 (MRN) during the processing of DSBs into single-strand DNA (ssDNA) ends, prerequisite substrates for RAD51, or both. To test these hypotheses, we measured the effect of BRCA1 on the competition between RAD51-mediated homologous recombination (gene conversion and crossover) versus RAD51-independent homologous recombination [single-strand annealing (SSA)] for ssDNA at a site-specific chromosomal DSB within a DNA repeat, a substrate for both homologous recombination pathways. Expression of wild-type BRCA1 in BRCA1-deficient human recombination reporter cell lines promoted both gene conversion and SSA but greatly enhanced gene conversion. In addition, BRCA1 also suppressed both spontaneous gene conversion and deletion events, which can arise from either crossover or sister chromatid replication slippage (SCRS), a RAD51-independent process. BRCA1 does not seem to block crossover. From these results, we conclude that (a) BRCA1 regulates RAD51 function in response to the type of DNA damage and (b) BRCA1 suppresses SCRS, suggesting a role for this protein in sister chromatid cohesion/alignment. Loss of such control in response to estrogen-induced DNA damage after BRCA1 inactivation may be a key initial event that triggers genome instability and carcinogenesis.

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