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Mutat Res. 2012 Mar 1;731(1-2):85-91. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2011.11.009. Epub 2011 Dec 6.

High risk of benzo[α]pyrene-induced lung cancer in E160D FEN1 mutant mice.

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Colleges of Life Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China.


Flap endonuclease 1 (FEN1), a member of the Rad2 nuclease family, possesses 5' flap endonuclease (FEN), 5' exonuclease (EXO), and gap-endonuclease (GEN) activities. The multiple, structure-specific nuclease activities of FEN1 allow it to process different intermediate DNA structures during DNA replication and repair. We previously identified a group of FEN1 mutations and single nucleotide polymorphisms that impair FEN1's EXO and GEN activities in human cancer patients. We also established a mouse model carrying the E160D FEN1 mutation, which mimics the mutations seen in humans. FEN1 mutant mice developed spontaneous lung cancer at high frequency at their late life stages. An important unanswered question is whether individuals carrying such FEN1 mutation are more susceptible to tobacco smoke and have an earlier onset of lung cancer. Here, we report our study on E160D mutant mice exposed to benzo[α]pyrene (B[α]P), a major DNA damaging compound found in tobacco smoke. We demonstrate that FEN1 employs its GEN activity to cleave DNA bubble substrates with BP-induced lesions, but the E160D FEN1 mutation abolishes such activity. As a consequence, Mouse cells carrying the E160D mutation display defects in the repair of B[α]P adducts and accumulate DNA double-stranded breaks and chromosomal aberrations upon treatments with B[α]P. Furthermore, more E160D mice than WT mice have an early onset of B[α]P-induced lung adenocarcinoma. All together, our current study suggests that individuals carrying the GEN-deficient FEN1 mutations have high risk to develop lung cancer upon exposure to B[α]P-containing agents such as tobacco smoke.

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