DNA repair and cell cycle checkpoint defects in a mouse model of ‘BRCAness’ are partially rescued by 53BP1 deletion

<p>‘BRCAness’ is a term used to describe cancer cells that behave similarly to tumors with <i>BRCA1</i> or <i>BRCA2</i> mutations. The BRCAness phenotype is associated with hypersensitivity to chemotherapy agents including PARP inhibitors, which are a promising class of recently-licensed anti-cancer treatments. This hypersensitivity arises because of a deficiency in the homologous recombination (HR) pathway for DNA double-strand break repair. To gain further insight into how genetic modifiers of HR contribute to the BRCAness phenotype, we created a new mouse model of BRCAness by generating mice that are deficient in BLM helicase and the Exo1 exonuclease, which are involved in the early stages of HR. We find that cells lacking BLM and Exo1 exhibit a BRCAness phenotype, with diminished HR, and hypersensitivity to PARP inhibitors. We further tested how 53BP1, an important regulator of HR, affects repair efficiency in our BRCAness model. We find that deletion of <i>53BP1</i> can relieve several of the repair deficiencies observed in cells lacking BLM and Exo1, just as it does in cells lacking BRCA1. These results substantiate the importance of BRCAness as a concept for classification of cancer cases, and further clarify the role of 53BP1 in regulation of DNA repair pathway choice in mammalian cells.</p>