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J Biol Chem. 2011 Aug 26;286(34):29531-9. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.221341. Epub 2011 Jul 2.

N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG) triggers MSH2 and Cdt2 protein-dependent degradation of the cell cycle and mismatch repair (MMR) inhibitor protein p21Waf1/Cip1.

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  • 1Baylor Research Institute and Sammons Cancer Center, Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, Texas 75246, USA.


p21(Waf1/Cip1) protein levels respond to DNA damage; p21 is induced after ionizing radiation, but degraded after UV. p21 degradation after UV is necessary for optimal DNA repair, presumably because p21 inhibits nucleotide excision repair by blocking proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA). Because p21 also inhibits DNA mismatch repair (MMR), we investigated how p21 levels respond to DNA alkylation by N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG), which triggers the MMR system. We show that MNNG caused rapid degradation of p21, and this involved the ubiquitin ligase Cdt2 and the proteasome. p21 degradation further required MSH2 but not MLH1. p21 mutants that cannot bind PCNA or cannot be ubiquitinated were resistant to MNNG. MNNG induced the formation of PCNA complexes with MSH6 and Cdt2. Finally, when p21 degradation was blocked, MNNG treatment resulted in reduced recruitment of MMR proteins to chromatin. This study describes a novel pathway that removes p21 to allow cells to efficiently activate the MMR system.

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