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Cell Cycle. 2010 Dec 15;9(24):4893-9. Epub 2010 Dec 15.

MCPH1 patient cells exhibit delayed release from DNA damage-induced G2/M checkpoint arrest.

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Institut für Humangenetik, Universität Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany.


Mutations in the MCPH1 gene cause primary microcephaly associated with a unique cellular phenotype of misregulated chromosome condensation. The encoded protein contains three BRCT domains, and accumulating data show that MCPH1 is involved in the DNA damage response. However, most of this evidence has been generated by experiments using RNA interference (RNAi) and cells from non-human model organisms. Here, we demonstrate that patient-derived cell lines display a proficient G2/M checkpoint following ionizing irradiation (IR) despite homozygous truncating mutations in MCPH1. Moreover, chromosomal breakage rates and the relocation to DNA repair foci of several proteins functioning putatively in an MCPH1-dependent manner are normal in these cells. However, the MCPH1-deficient cells exhibit a slight delay in re-entering mitosis and delayed resolution of γH2AX foci following IR. Analysis of chromosome condensation behavior following IR suggests that these latter observations may be related to hypercondensation of the chromatin in cells with MCPH1 mutations. Our results indicate that the DNA damage response in human cells with truncating MCPH1 mutations differs significantly from the damage responses in cells of certain model organisms and in cells depleted of MCPH1 by RNAi. These subtle effects of human MCPH1 deficiency on the cellular DNA damage response may explain the absence of cancer predisposition in patients with biallelic MCPH1 mutations.

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