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Single-molecule localization microscopy reveals molecular transactions during RAD51 filament assembly at cellular DNA damage sites.

RAD51 recombinase assembles on single-stranded (ss)DNA substrates exposed by DNA end-resection to initiate homologous recombination (HR), a process fundamental to genome integrity. RAD51 assembly has been characterized using purified proteins, but its ultrastructural topography in the cell nucleus is unexplored. Here, we combine cell genetics with single-molecule localization microscopy and a palette of bespoke analytical tools, to visualize molecular transactions during RAD51 assembly in the cellular milieu at resolutions approaching 30-40 nm. In several human cell types, RAD51 focalizes in clusters that progressively extend into long filaments, which abut-but do not overlap-with globular bundles of replication protein A (RPA). Extended filaments alter topographically over time, suggestive of succeeding steps in HR. In cells depleted of the tumor suppressor protein BRCA2, or overexpressing its RAD51-binding BRC repeats, RAD51 fails to assemble at damage sites, although RPA accumulates unhindered. By contrast, in cells lacking a BRCA2 carboxyl (C)-terminal region targeted by cancer-causing mutations, damage-induced RAD51 assemblies initiate but do not extend into filaments. We suggest a model wherein RAD51 assembly proceeds concurrently with end-resection at adjacent sites, via an initiation step dependent on the BRC repeats, followed by filament extension through the C-terminal region of BRCA2.

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RAD54 N-terminal domain is a DNA sensor that couples ATP hydrolysis with branch migration of Holliday junctions.

In eukaryotes, RAD54 catalyzes branch migration (BM) of Holliday junctions, a basic process during DNA repair, replication, and recombination. RAD54 also stimulates RAD51 recombinase and has other activities. Here, we investigate the structural determinants for different RAD54 activities. We find that the RAD54 N-terminal domain (NTD) is responsible for initiation of BM through two coupled, but distinct steps; specific binding to Holliday junctions and RAD54 oligomerization. Furthermore, we find that the RAD54 oligomeric state can be controlled by NTD phosphorylation at S49, a CDK2 consensus site, which inhibits RAD54 oligomerization and, consequently, BM. Importantly, the effect of phosphorylation on RAD54 oligomerization is specific for BM, as it does not affect stimulation of RAD51 recombinase by RAD54. Thus, the transition of the oligomeric states provides an important control of the biological functions of RAD54 and, likely, other multifunctional proteins.

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Replication Fork Reversal: Players and Guardians.

Replication fork reversal is a rapidly emerging and remarkably frequent mechanism of fork stabilization in response to genotoxic insults. Here, we summarize recent findings that uncover key molecular determinants for reversed fork formation and describe how the homologous recombination factors BRCA1, BRCA2, and RAD51 protect these structures from extended nucleolytic degradation.

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LncRNA lnc-RI regulates homologous recombination repair of DNA double-strand breaks by stabilizing RAD51 mRNA as a competitive endogenous RNA.

DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair is critical for the maintenance of genome stability. The current models of the mechanism of DSB repair are based on studies of DNA repair proteins. Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) have recently emerged as new regulatory molecules, with diverse functions in biological processes. In the present study, we found that expression of the ionizing radiation-inducible lncRNA, lnc-RI, was correlate negatively with micronucleus frequencies in human peripheral blood lymphocytes. Knockdown of lnc-RI significantly increased spontaneous DSBs levels, which was confirmed to be associated with the decreased efficiency of homologous recombination (HR) repair of DSBs. The expression of RAD51, a key recombinase in the HR pathway, decreased sharply in lnc-RI-depressed cells. In a further investigation, we demonstrated that miR-193a-3p could bind with both lnc-RI and RAD51 mRNA and depressed the expression of lnc-RI and RAD51 mRNA. Lnc-RI acted as a competitive endogenous RNA (ceRNA) to stabilize RAD51 mRNA via competitive binding with miR-193a-3p and release of its inhibition of RAD51 expression. To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate the role of lnc-RI in regulating HR repair of DSBs. The feedback loop established in the current study suggests that lnc-RI is critical for the maintenance of genomic stability.

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Direct Single-Molecule Observation of Mode and Geometry of RecA-Mediated Homology Search.

Genomic integrity, when compromised by accrued DNA lesions, is maintained through efficient repair via homologous recombination. For this process the ubiquitous recombinase A (RecA), and its homologues such as the human Rad51, are of central importance, able to align and exchange homologous sequences within single-stranded and double-stranded DNA in order to swap out defective regions. Here, we directly observe the widely debated mechanism of RecA homology searching at a single-molecule level using high-speed atomic force microscopy (HS-AFM) in combination with tailored DNA origami frames to present the reaction targets in a way suitable for AFM-imaging. We show that RecA nucleoprotein filaments move along DNA substrates via short-distance facilitated diffusions, or slides, interspersed with longer-distance random moves, or hops. Importantly, from the specific interaction geometry, we find that the double-stranded substrate DNA resides in the secondary DNA binding-site within the RecA nucleoprotein filament helical groove during the homology search. This work demonstrates that tailored DNA origami, in conjunction with HS-AFM, can be employed to reveal directly conformational and geometrical information on dynamic protein-DNA interactions which was previously inaccessible at an individual single-molecule level.

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Downregulation of DNA repair proteins and increased DNA damage in hypoxic colon cancer cells is a therapeutically exploitable vulnerability.

Surgical removal of colorectal cancer (CRC) liver metastases generates areas of tissue hypoxia. Hypoxia imposes a stem-like phenotype on residual tumor cells and promotes tumor recurrence. Moreover, in primary CRC, gene expression signatures reflecting hypoxia and a stem-like phenotype are highly expressed in the aggressive Consensus Molecular Subtype 4 (CMS4). Therapeutic strategies eliminating hypoxic stem-like cells may limit recurrence following resection of primary tumors or metastases. Here we show that expression of DNA repair genes is strongly suppressed in CMS4 and inversely correlated with hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF1α) and HIF-2α co-expression signatures. Tumors with high expression of HIF signatures and low expression of repair proteins showed the worst survival. In human tumors, expression of the repair proteins RAD51, KU70 and RIF1 was strongly suppressed in hypoxic peri-necrotic tumor areas. Experimentally induced hypoxia in patient derived colonospheres in vitro or in vivo (through vascular clamping) was sufficient to downregulate repair protein expression and caused DNA damage. Hypoxia-induced DNA damage was prevented by expressing the hydroperoxide-scavenging enzyme glutathione peroxidase-2 (GPx2), indicating that reactive oxygen species mediate hypoxia-induced DNA damage. Finally, the hypoxia-activated prodrug Tirapazamine greatly augmented DNA damage and reduced the fraction of stem-like (Aldefluorbright) tumor cells in vitro, and in vivo following vascular clamping. We conclude that decreased expression of DNA repair proteins and increased DNA damage in hypoxic tumor areas may be therapeutically exploited with hypoxia-activated prodrugs, and that such drugs reduce the fraction of Aldefluorbright (stem-like) tumor cells.

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Natural product β-thujaplicin inhibits homologous recombination repair and sensitizes cancer cells to radiation therapy.

Investigation of natural products is an attractive strategy to identify novel compounds for cancer prevention and treatment. Numerous studies have shown the efficacy and safety of natural products, and they have been widely used as alternative treatments for a wide range of illnesses, including cancers. However, it remains unknown whether natural products affect homologous recombination (HR)-mediated DNA repair and whether these compounds can be used as sensitizers with minimal toxicity to improve patients' responses to radiation therapy, a mainstay of treatment for many human cancers. In this study, in order to systematically identify natural products with an inhibitory effect on HR repair, we developed a high-throughput image-based HR repair screening assay and screened a chemical library containing natural products. Among the most interesting of the candidate compounds identified from the screen was β-thujaplicin, a bioactive compound isolated from the heart wood of plants in the Cupressaceae family, can significantly inhibit HR repair. We further demonstrated that β-thujaplicin inhibits HR repair by reducing the recruitment of a key HR repair protein, Rad51, to DNA double-strand breaks. More importantly, our results showed that β-thujaplicin can radiosensitize cancer cells. Additionally, β-thujaplicin sensitizes cancer cells to PARP inhibitor in different cancer cell lines. Collectively, our findings for the first time identify natural compound β-thujaplicin, which has a good biosafety profile, as a novel HR repair inhibitor with great potential to be translated into clinical applications as a sensitizer to DNA-damage-inducing treatment such as radiation and PARP inhibitor. In addition, our study provides proof of the principle that our robust high-throughput functional HR repair assay can be used for a large-scale screening system to identify novel natural products that regulate DNA repair and cellular responses to DNA damage-inducing treatments such as radiation therapy.

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Defects in recombination activity caused by somatic and germline mutations in the multimerization/BRCA2 binding region of human RAD51 protein.

The human RAD51 recombinase possesses DNA pairing and strand exchange activities that are essential for the error-free, homology-directed repair of DNA double-strand breaks. The recombination activities of RAD51 are activated upon its assembly into presynaptic filaments on single-stranded DNA at resected DSB ends. Defects in filament assembly caused by mutations in RAD51 or its regulators such as BRCA2 are associated with human cancer. Here we describe two novel RAD51 missense variants located in the multimerization/BRCA2 binding region of RAD51. F86L is a breast tumor-derived somatic variant that affects the interface between adjacent RAD51 protomers in the presynaptic filament. E258A is a germline variant that maps to the interface region between the N-terminal and RecA homology domains of RAD51. Both variants exhibit abnormal biochemistry including altered DNA strand exchange activity. Both variants inhibit the DNA strand exchange activity of wild-type RAD51, suggesting a mechanism for negative dominance. The inhibitory effect of F86L on wild-type RAD51 is surprising since F86L alone exhibits robust DNA strand exchange activity. Our findings indicate that even DNA strand exchange-proficient variants can have negative functional interactions with wild-type RAD51. Thus heterozygous F86L or E258 mutations in RAD51 could promote genomic instability, and thereby contribute to tumor progression.

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Knockdown of BRCA2 enhances cisplatin and cisplatin-induced autophagy in ovarian cancer cells.

Clinical implications of the BRCA2 expression level on treatments of ovarian cancer are controversial. Here, we demonstrated that platinum-resistant cancer had a higher percentage of high BRCA2 level (87.5% vs 43.6%, P = 0.001), and that patients with a low BRCA2 level in cancer tissues had longer progression-free survival (with a median time of 28.0 vs 12.0 months, P < 0.001) and platinum-free duration (with a median time of 19.0 vs 5.0 months, P < 0.001) compared with those with a high BRCA2 level. In human ovarian cancer cell lines CAOV-3 and ES-2, cisplatin induced an upregulation of the RAD51 protein, which was inhibited after silencing BRCA2; silencing BRCA2 enhanced the action of cisplatin in vitro and in vivo Knockdown of BRCA2 promoted cisplatin-induced autophagy. Interestingly, the autophagy blocker chloroquine enhanced cisplatin in BRCA2-silenced cells accompanied by an increase in apoptotic cells, which did not occur in BRCA2-intact cells; chloroquine enhanced the efficacy of cisplatin against BRCA2-silenced CAOV-3 tumors in vivo, with an increase in LC3-II level in tumor tissues. Sensitization of cisplatin was also observed in BRCA2-silenced CAOV-3 cells after inhibiting ATG7, confirming that chloroquine modulated the sensitivity via the autophagy pathway. These data suggest that a low BRCA2 level can predict better platinum sensitivity and prognosis, and that the modulation of autophagy can be a chemosensitizer for certain cancers.

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Aquarius is required for proper CtIP expression and homologous recombination repair.

Accumulating evidence indicates that transcription is closely related to DNA damage formation and that the loss of RNA biogenesis factors causes genome instability. However, whether such factors are involved in DNA damage responses remains unclear. We focus here on the RNA helicase Aquarius (AQR), a known R-loop processing factor, and show that its depletion in human cells results in the accumulation of DNA damage during S phase, mediated by R-loop formation. We investigated the involvement of Aquarius in DNA damage responses and found that AQR knockdown decreased DNA damage-induced foci formation of Rad51 and replication protein A, suggesting that Aquarius contributes to homologous recombination (HR)-mediated repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). Interestingly, the protein level of CtIP, a DSB processing factor, was decreased in AQR-knockdown cells. Exogenous expression of Aquarius partially restored CtIP protein level; however, CtIP overproduction did not rescue defective HR in AQR-knockdown cells. In accordance with these data, Aquarius depletion sensitized cells to genotoxic agents. We propose that Aquarius contributes to the maintenance of genomic stability via regulation of HR by CtIP-dependent and -independent pathways.

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