The SWI/SNF ATPase BRG1 stimulates DNA end resection and homologous recombination by reducing nucleosome density at DNA double strand breaks and by promoting the recruitment of the CtIP nuclease
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DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) are among the most toxic DNA lesions and can be repaired accurately through homologous recombination (HR). HR requires processing of the DNA ends by nucleases (DNA end resection) in order to generate the required single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) regions. The SWI/SNF chromatin remodelers are 10–15 subunit complexes that contain one ATPase (BRG1 or BRM). Multiple subunits of these complexes have recently been identified as a novel family of tumor suppressors. These complexes are capable of remodeling chromatin by pushing nucleosomes along the DNA. More recent studies have identified these chromatin remodelers as important factors in DNA repair. Using the DR-U2OS reporter system, we show that the down regulation of BRG1 significantly reduces HR efficiency, while BRM has a minor effect. Inactivation of BRG1 impairs DSB repair and results in a defect in DNA end resection, as measured by the amount of BrdU-containing ssDNA generated after DNA damage. Inactivation of BRG1 also impairs the activation of the ATR kinase, reduces the levels of chromatin-bound RPA, and reduces the number of RPA and RAD51 foci after DNA damage. This defect in DNA end resection is explained by the defective recruitment of GFP-CtIP to laser-induced DSBs in the absence of BRG1. Importantly, we show that BRG1 reduces nucleosome density at DSBs. Finally, inactivation of BRG1 renders cells sensitive to anti-cancer drugs that induce DSBs. This study identifies BRG1 as an important factor for HR, which suggests that BRG1-mutated cancers have a DNA repair vulnerability that can be exploited therapeutically.