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1.  SUMO Modification Regulates BLM and RAD51 Interaction at Damaged Replication Forks 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(12):e1000252.
SUMO modification of BLM controls the switch between BLM's pro- and anti-recombinogenic roles in homologous recombination following DNA damage during replication.
The gene mutated in Bloom's syndrome, BLM, is important in the repair of damaged replication forks, and it has both pro- and anti-recombinogenic roles in homologous recombination (HR). At damaged forks, BLM interacts with RAD51 recombinase, the essential enzyme in HR that catalyzes homology-dependent strand invasion. We have previously shown that defects in BLM modification by the small ubiquitin-related modifier (SUMO) cause increased γ-H2AX foci. Because the increased γ-H2AX could result from defective repair of spontaneous DNA damage, we hypothesized that SUMO modification regulates BLM's function in HR repair at damaged forks. To test this hypothesis, we treated cells that stably expressed a normal BLM (BLM+) or a SUMO-mutant BLM (SM-BLM) with hydroxyurea (HU) and examined the effects of stalled replication forks on RAD51 and its DNA repair functions. HU treatment generated excess γ-H2AX in SM-BLM compared to BLM+ cells, consistent with a defect in replication-fork repair. SM-BLM cells accumulated increased numbers of DNA breaks and were hypersensitive to DNA damage. Importantly, HU treatment failed to induce sister-chromatid exchanges in SM-BLM cells compared to BLM+ cells, indicating a specific defect in HR repair and suggesting that RAD51 function could be compromised. Consistent with this hypothesis, RAD51 localization to HU-induced repair foci was impaired in SM-BLM cells. These data suggested that RAD51 might interact noncovalently with SUMO. We found that in vitro RAD51 interacts noncovalently with SUMO and that it interacts more efficiently with SUMO-modified BLM compared to unmodified BLM. These data suggest that SUMOylation controls the switch between BLM's pro- and anti-recombinogenic roles in HR. In the absence of BLM SUMOylation, BLM perturbs RAD51 localization at damaged replication forks and inhibits fork repair by HR. Conversely, BLM SUMOylation relieves its inhibitory effects on HR, and it promotes RAD51 function.
Author Summary
Replication is the process in which cellular DNA is duplicated. DNA damage incurred during replication is detrimental to the cell. Homologous recombination, in which DNA sequences are exchanged between two similar or identical strands of DNA, plays a pivotal role in correcting replication processes that have failed due to DNA breakage and is tightly regulated, because deficient or excess recombination results in genomic instability. Previous studies have implicated the DNA-processing enzyme BLM in the regulation of homologous recombination; BLM is defective in Bloom's syndrome, which is characterized by excess recombination and cancer susceptibility. Here, we show that modification of BLM by the small protein SUMO controls BLM's function in regulating homologous recombination at sites where DNA replication failed. We showed that cells expressing a SUMO-deficient mutant of BLM accumulated more DNA damage and displayed defects in repair by homologous recombination. An enzyme involved in homologous recombination, RAD51, displayed a defect in localization to sites where DNA replication failed. Our data support a model in which SUMO modification regulates BLM's function in homologous recombination by controlling the localization of RAD51 to failed replication sites.
PMCID: PMC2779653  PMID: 19956565
2.  Phosphorylation of BLM, Dissociation from Topoisomerase IIIα, and Colocalization with γ-H2AX after Topoisomerase I-Induced Replication Damage 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(20):8925-8937.
Topoisomerase I-associated DNA single-strand breaks selectively trapped by camptothecins are lethal after being converted to double-strand breaks by replication fork collisions. BLM (Bloom's syndrome protein), a RecQ DNA helicase, and topoisomerase IIIα (Top3α) appear essential for the resolution of stalled replication forks (Holliday junctions). We investigated the involvement of BLM in the signaling response to Top1-mediated replication DNA damage. In BLM-complemented cells, BLM colocalized with promyelocytic leukemia protein (PML) nuclear bodies and Top3α. Fibroblasts without BLM showed an increased sensitivity to camptothecin, enhanced formation of Top1-DNA complexes, and delayed histone H2AX phosphorylation (γ-H2AX). Camptothecin also induced nuclear relocalization of BLM, Top3α, and PML protein and replication-dependent phosphorylation of BLM on threonine 99 (T99p-BLM). T99p-BLM was also observed following replication stress induced by hydroxyurea. Ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) protein and AT- and Rad9-related protein kinases, but not DNA-dependent protein kinase, appeared to play a redundant role in phosphorylating BLM. Following camptothecin treatment, T99p-BLM colocalized with γ-H2AX but not with Top3α or PML. Thus, BLM appears to dissociate from Top3α and PML following its phosphorylation and facilitates H2AX phosphorylation in response to replication double-strand breaks induced by Top1. A defect in γ-H2AX signaling in response to unrepaired replication-mediated double-strand breaks might, at least in part, explain the camptothecin-sensitivity of BLM-deficient cells.
PMCID: PMC1265790  PMID: 16199871
3.  The redox antimalarial dihydroartemisinin targets human metastatic melanoma cells but not primary melanocytes with induction of NOXA-dependent apoptosis 
Investigational New Drugs  2011;30(4):1289-1301.
Recent research suggests that altered redox control of melanoma cell survival, proliferation, and invasiveness represents a chemical vulnerability that can be targeted by pharmacological modulation of cellular oxidative stress. The endoperoxide artemisinin and semisynthetic artemisinin-derivatives including dihydroartemisinin (DHA) constitute a major class of antimalarials that kill plasmodium parasites through induction of iron-dependent oxidative stress. Here, we demonstrate that DHA may serve as a redox chemotherapeutic that selectively induces melanoma cell apoptosis without compromising viability of primary human melanocytes. Cultured human metastatic melanoma cells (A375, G361, LOX) were sensitive to DHA-induced apoptosis with upregulation of cellular oxidative stress, phosphatidylserine externalization, and activational cleavage of procaspase 3. Expression array analysis revealed DHA-induced upregulation of oxidative and genotoxic stress response genes (GADD45A, GADD153, CDKN1A, PMAIP1, HMOX1, EGR1) in A375 cells. DHA exposure caused early upregulation of the BH3-only protein NOXA, a proapototic member of the Bcl2 family encoded by PMAIP1, and genetic antagonism (siRNA targeting PMAIP1) rescued melanoma cells from apoptosis indicating a causative role of NOXA-upregulation in DHA-induced melanoma cell death. Comet analysis revealed early DHA-induction of genotoxic stress accompanied by p53 activational phosphorylation (Ser 15). In primary human epidermal melanocytes, viability was not compromised by DHA, and oxidative stress, comet tail moment, and PMAIP1 (NOXA) expression remained unaltered. Taken together, these data demonstrate that metastatic melanoma cells display a specific vulnerability to DHA-induced NOXA-dependent apoptosis and suggest feasibility of future antimelanoma intervention using artemisinin-derived clinical redox antimalarials.
PMCID: PMC3203350  PMID: 21547369
Malignant melanoma; Dihydroartemisinin; PMAIP1; Reactive oxygen species; Oxidative stress; Apoptosis
4.  Phosphorylation of the Bloom's Syndrome Helicase and Its Role in Recovery from S-Phase Arrest 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(3):1279-1291.
Bloom's syndrome (BS) is a human genetic disorder associated with cancer predisposition. The BS gene product, BLM, is a member of the RecQ helicase family, which is required for the maintenance of genome stability in all organisms. In budding and fission yeasts, loss of RecQ helicase function confers sensitivity to inhibitors of DNA replication, such as hydroxyurea (HU), by failure to execute normal cell cycle progression following recovery from such an S-phase arrest. We have examined the role of the human BLM protein in recovery from S-phase arrest mediated by HU and have probed whether the stress-activated ATR kinase, which functions in checkpoint signaling during S-phase arrest, plays a role in the regulation of BLM function. We show that, consistent with a role for BLM in protection of human cells against the toxicity associated with arrest of DNA replication, BS cells are hypersensitive to HU. BLM physically associates with ATR (ataxia telangiectasia and rad3+ related) protein and is phosphorylated on two residues in the N-terminal domain, Thr-99 and Thr-122, by this kinase. Moreover, BS cells ectopically expressing a BLM protein containing phosphorylation-resistant T99A/T122A substitutions fail to adequately recover from an HU-induced replication blockade, and the cells subsequently arrest at a caffeine-sensitive G2/M checkpoint. These abnormalities are not associated with a failure of the BLM-T99A/T122A protein to localize to replication foci or to colocalize either with ATR itself or with other proteins that are required for response to DNA damage, such as phosphorylated histone H2AX and RAD51. Our data indicate that RecQ helicases play a conserved role in recovery from perturbations in DNA replication and are consistent with a model in which RecQ helicases act to restore productive DNA replication following S-phase arrest and hence prevent subsequent genomic instability.
PMCID: PMC321429  PMID: 14729972
5.  The human WRN and BLM RecQ helicases differentially regulate cell proliferation and survival after chemotherapeutic DNA damage 
Cancer research  2010;70(16):6548-6555.
Loss of function mutations in the human RecQ helicase genes WRN and BLM respectively cause the genetic instability/cancer predisposition syndromes Werner syndrome and Bloom syndrome. In order to identify common and unique functions of WRN and BLM, we systematically analyzed cell proliferation, cell survival and genomic damage in isogenic cell lines depleted of WRN, BLM or both proteins. Cell proliferation and survival were assessed prior to and after treatment with camptothecin, cis-Pt, hydroxyurea or 5-fluorouracil. Genomic damage was assessed, prior to and after replication arrest, by γ-H2AX staining quantified at the single cell level by flow cytometry. Cell proliferation was strongly affected by the extent of WRN and/or BLM depletion, and more strongly by BLM than by WRN depletion (p=0.005). The proliferation of WRN/BLM co-depleted cells, in contrast, did not differ from BLM-depleted cells (p=0.34). BLM-depleted and WRN/BLM co-depleted cells had comparably impaired survivals after DNA damage, whereas WRN-depleted cells displayed a distinct pattern of sensitivity to DNA damage. BLM-depleted and WRN/BLM co-depleted cells had similar, significantly higher γ-H2AX induction levels than did WRN-depleted cells. Our results provide new information on the role of WRN and BLM in determining cell proliferation, cell survival and genomic damage after chemotherapeutic DNA damage or replication arrest. We also provide new information on functional redundancy between WRN and BLM. These results provide a strong rationale for further developing WRN and BLM as biomarkers of tumor chemotherapeutic responsiveness.
PMCID: PMC2941797  PMID: 20663905
RecQ helicase; Werner syndrome; Bloom syndrome; DNA damage; chemotherapy; therapeutic biomarker
6.  Resistance to Bleomycin in Cancer Cell Lines Is Characterized by Prolonged Doubling Time, Reduced DNA Damage and Evasion of G2/M Arrest and Apoptosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82363.
To establish, characterize and elucidate potential mechanisms of acquired bleomycin (BLM) resistance using human cancer cell lines. Seven BLM-resistant cell lines were established by exposure to escalating BLM concentrations over a period of 16-24 months. IC50 values and cell doubling times were quantified using a real time cytotoxicity assay. COMET and γ-H2AX assays, cell cycle analysis, and apoptosis assessment further investigated the mechanisms of BLM resistance in these cell lines.
Compared with parental cell lines, real time cytotoxicity assays revealed 7 to 49 fold increases in IC50 and a mean doubling time increase of 147 % (range 64 %-352%) in BLM-resistant sub-clones (p<0.05 for both). Higher maintenance BLM concentrations were associated with higher IC50 and increased doubling times (p<0.05). Significantly reduced DNA damage (COMET and γ-H2AX assays), G2/M arrest, and apoptosis (p<0.05 for each set of comparison) following high-dose acute BLM exposure was observed in resistant sub-clones, compared with their BLM-sensitive parental counterparts. Three weeks of BLM-free culturing resulted in a partial return to BLM sensitivity in 3/7 BLM-resistant sub-clones (p<0.05).
Bleomycin resistance may be associated with reduced DNA damage after bleomycin exposure, resulting in reduced G2/M arrest, and reduced apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC3857806  PMID: 24349265
7.  Chromatin-bound PCNA complex formation triggered by DNA damage occurs independent of the ATM gene product in human cells 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(6):1341-1351.
Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), a processivity factor for DNA polymerases δ and ɛ, is involved in DNA replication as well as in diverse DNA repair pathways. In quiescent cells, UV light-induced bulky DNA damage triggers the transition of PCNA from a soluble to an insoluble chromatin-bound form, which is intimately associated with the repair synthesis by polymerases δ and ɛ. In this study, we investigated the efficiency of PCNA complex formation in response to ionizing radiation-induced DNA strand breaks in normal and radiation-sensitive Ataxia telangiectasia (AT) cells by immunofluorescence and western blot techniques. Exposure of normal cells to γ-rays rapidly triggered the formation of PCNA foci in a dose-dependent manner in the nuclei and the PCNA foci (40–45%) co-localized with sites of repair synthesis detected by bromodeoxyuridine labeling. The chromatin-bound PCNA gradually declined with increasing post-irradiation times and almost reached the level of unirradiated cells by 6 h. The PCNA foci formed after γ-irradiation was resistant to high salt extraction and the chromatin association of PCNA was lost after DNase I digestion. Interestingly, two radiosensitive primary fibroblast cell lines, derived from AT patients harboring homozygous mutations in the ATM gene, displayed an efficient PCNA redistribution after γ-irradiation. We also analyzed the PCNA complex induced by a radiomimetic agent, Bleomycin (BLM), which produces predominantly single- and double-strand DNA breaks. The efficiency and the time course of PCNA complex induced by BLM were identical in both normal and AT cells. Our study demonstrates for the first time that the ATM gene product is not required for PCNA complex assembly in response to DNA strand breaks. Additionally, we observed an increased interaction of PCNA with the Ku70 and Ku80 heterodimer after DNA damage, suggestive of a role for PCNA in the non-homologous end-joining repair pathway of DNA strand breaks.
PMCID: PMC29758  PMID: 11239001
8.  DNA replication arrest leads to enhanced homologous recombination and cell death in meristems of rice OsRecQl4 mutants 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:62.
Mammalian BLM helicase is involved in DNA replication, DNA repair and homologous recombination (HR). These DNA transactions are associated tightly with cell division and are important for maintaining genome stability. However, unlike in mammals, cell division in higher plants is restricted mainly to the meristem, thus genome maintenance at the meristem is critical. The counterpart of BLM in Arabidopsis (AtRecQ4A) has been identified and its role in HR and in the response to DNA damage has been confirmed. However, the function of AtRecQ4A in the meristem during replication stress has not yet been well elucidated.
We isolated the BLM counterpart gene OsRecQl4 from rice and analyzed its function using a reverse genetics approach. Osrecql4 mutant plants showed hypersensitivity to DNA damaging agents and enhanced frequency of HR compared to wild-type (WT) plants. We further analyzed the effect of aphidicolin—an inhibitor of S-phase progression via its inhibitory effect on DNA polymerases—on genome stability in the root meristem in osrecql4 mutant plants and corresponding WT plants. The following effects were observed upon aphidicolin treatment: a) comet assay showed induction of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in mutant plants, b) TUNEL assay showed enhanced DNA breaks at the root meristem in mutant plants, c) a recombination reporter showed enhanced HR frequency in mutant calli, d) propidium iodide (PI) staining of root tips revealed an increased incidence of cell death in the meristem of mutant plants.
These results demonstrate that the aphidicolin-sensitive phenotype of osrecql4 mutants was in part due to induced DSBs and cell death, and that OsRecQl4 plays an important role as a caretaker, maintaining genome stability during DNA replication stress in the rice meristem.
PMCID: PMC3648487  PMID: 23586618
Rice; RecQ helicase; OsRecQl4; DNA replication; DNA double-strand break; Homologous recombination; Meristem
9.  Discrepant NOXA (PMAIP1) transcript and NOXA protein levels: a potential Achilles' heel in mantle cell lymphoma 
Cell Death & Disease  2014;5(1):e1013-.
Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is an aggressive lymphoid neoplasm with transient response to conventional chemotherapy. We here investigated the role of the Bcl-2 homology domain 3-only protein NOXA for life–death decision in MCL. Surprisingly, NOXA (PMAIP1) mRNA and NOXA protein levels were extremely discrepant in MCL cells: NOXA mRNA was found to be highly expressed whereas NOXA protein levels were low. Chronic active B-cell receptor signaling and to a minor degree cyclin D1 overexpression contributed to high NOXA mRNA expression levels in MCL cells. The phoshatidyl-inositol-3 kinase/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin pathway was identified as the major downstream signaling pathway involved in the maintenance of NOXA gene expression. Interestingly, MCL cells adapt to this constitutive pro-apoptotic signal by extensive ubiquitination and rapid proteasomal degradation of NOXA protein (T½∼15–30 min). In addition to the proteasome inhibitor Bortezomib, we identified the neddylation inhibitor MLN4924 and the fatty acid synthase inhibitor Orlistat as potent inducers of NOXA protein expression leading to apoptosis in MCL. All inhibitors targeted NOXA protein turnover. In contrast to Bortezomib, MLN4924 and Orlistat interfered with the ubiquitination process of NOXA protein thereby offering new strategies to kill Bortezomib-resistant MCL cells. Our data, therefore, highlight a critical role of NOXA in the balance between life and death in MCL. The discrepancy between NOXA transcript and protein levels is essential for sensitivity of MCL to ubiquitin-proteasome system inhibitors and could therefore provide a druggable Achilles' heel of MCL cells.
PMCID: PMC4040662  PMID: 24457957
NOXA (PMAIP1); mantle cell lymphoma; ubiquitin-proteasome system; apoptosis
10.  Association between polymorphisms in RMI1, TOP3A, and BLM and risk of cancer, a case-control study 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:140.
Mutations altering BLM function are associated with highly elevated cancer susceptibility (Bloom syndrome). Thus, genetic variants of BLM and proteins that form complexes with BLM, such as TOP3A and RMI1, might affect cancer risk as well.
In this study we have studied 26 tagged single nucleotide polymorphisms (tagSNPs) in RMI1, TOP3A, and BLM and their associations with cancer risk in acute myeloid leukemia/myelodysplatic syndromes (AML/MDS; N = 152), malignant melanoma (N = 170), and bladder cancer (N = 61). Two population-based control groups were used (N = 119 and N = 156).
Based on consistency in effect estimates for the three cancer forms and similar allelic frequencies of the variant alleles in the control groups, two SNPs in TOP3A (rs1563634 and rs12945597) and two SNPs in BLM (rs401549 and rs2532105) were selected for analysis in breast cancer cases (N = 200) and a control group recruited from spouses of cancer patients (N = 131). The rs12945597 in TOP3A and rs2532105 in BLM showed increased risk for breast cancer. We then combined all cases (N = 584) and controls (N = 406) respectively and found significantly increased risk for variant carriers of rs1563634 A/G (AG carriers OR = 1.7 [95%CI 1.1–2.6], AA carriers OR = 1.8 [1.2–2.8]), rs12945597 G/A (GA carriers OR = 1.5 [1.1–1.9], AA carriers OR = 1.6 [1.0–2.5]), and rs2532105 C/T (CT+TT carriers OR = 1.8 [1.4–2.5]). Gene-gene interaction analysis suggested an additive effect of carrying more than one risk allele. For the variants of TOP3A, the risk increment was more pronounced for older carriers.
These results further support a role of low-penetrance genes involved in BLM-associated homologous recombination for cancer risk.
PMCID: PMC2685436  PMID: 19432957
11.  BLM SUMOylation regulates ssDNA accumulation at stalled replication forks 
Frontiers in Genetics  2013;4:167.
Polymerase stalling results in uncoupling of DNA polymerase and the replicative helicase, which generates single-stranded DNA (ssDNA). After stalling, RAD51 accumulates at stalled replication forks to stabilize the fork and to repair by homologous recombination (HR) double-strand breaks (DSBs) that accumulate there. We showed recently that SUMO modification of the BLM helicase is required in order for RAD51 to accumulate at stalled forks. In order to investigate how BLM SUMOylation controls RAD51 accumulation, we characterized the function of HR proteins and ssDNA-binding protein RPA in cells that stably expressed either normal BLM (BLM+) or SUMO-mutant BLM (SM-BLM). In HU-treated SM-BLM cells, mediators BRCA2 and RAD52, which normally substitute RAD51 for RPA on ssDNA, failed to accumulate normally at stalled forks; instead, excess RPA accumulated. SM-BLM cells also exhibited higher levels of HU-induced chromatin-bound RPA than BLM+ cells did. The excess RPA did not result from excessive intrinsic BLM helicase activity, because in vitro SUMOylated BLM unwound similar amounts of replication-fork substrate as unSUMOylated BLM. Nor did BLM SUMOylation inhibit binding of RPA to BLM in vitro; however, in immunoprecipitation experiments, more BLM-RPA complex formed in HU-treated SM-BLM cells, indicating that BLM SUMOylation controls the amount of BLM-RPA complex normally formed at stalled forks. Together, these results showed that BLM SUMOylation regulates the amount of ssDNA that accumulates during polymerase stalling. We conclude that BLM SUMOylation functions as a licensing mechanism that permits and regulates HR at damaged replication forks.
PMCID: PMC3761158  PMID: 24027577
Bloom′s syndrome; DNA repair foci; homologous recombination; RecQ DNA helicases; replication fork stability
12.  Gamma-radiation sensitivity and polymorphisms in RAD51L1 modulate glioma risk 
Carcinogenesis  2010;31(10):1762-1769.
Background: DNA strand breaks pose the greatest threat to genomic stability. Genetically determined mutagen sensitivity predisposes individuals to a variety of cancers, including glioma. However, polymorphisms in DNA strand break repair genes that may determine mutagen sensitivity are not well studied in cancer risk, especially in gliomas.
Methods: We correlated genotype data for tag single-nucleotide polymorphisms (tSNPs) of DNA strand break repair genes with a gamma-radiation-induced mutagen sensitivity phenotype [expressed as mean breaks per cell (B/C)] in samples from 426 glioma patients. We also conducted analysis to assess joint and haplotype effects of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on mutagen sensitivity. We further validate our results in an independent external control group totaling 662 subjects.
Results: Of the 392 tSNPs examined, we found that mutagen sensitivity was modified by one tSNP in the EME2 gene and six tSNPs in the RAD51L1 gene (P < 0.01). Among the six RAD51L1 SNPs tested in the validation set, one (RAD51L1 rs2180611) was significantly associated with mutagen sensitivity (P = 0.025). Moreover, we found a significant dose–response relationship between the mutagen sensitivity and the number of adverse tSNP genotypes. Furthermore, haplotype analysis revealed that RAD51L1 haplotypes F-A (zero adverse allele) and F-E (six adverse alleles) exhibited the lowest (0.42) and highest (0.93) mean B/C values, respectively. A similar dose–response relationship also existed between the mutagen sensitivity and the number of adverse haplotypes.
Conclusion: These results suggest that polymorphisms in and haplotypes of the RAD51L1 gene, which is involved in the double-strand break repair pathway, modulate gamma-radiation-induced mutagen sensitivity.
PMCID: PMC2981459  PMID: 20610542
13.  Is the Comet Assay a Sensitive Procedure for Detecting Genotoxicity? 
Journal of Nucleic Acids  2010;2010:541050.
Although the Comet assay, a procedure for quantitating DNA damage in mammalian cells, is considered sensitive, it has never been ascertained that its sensitivity is higher than the sensitivity of other genotoxicity assays in mammalian cells. To determine whether the power of the Comet assay to detect a low level of genotoxic potential is superior to those of other genotoxicity assays in mammalian cells, we compared the results of Comet assay with those of micronucleus test (MN test). WTK1 human lymphoblastoid cells were exposed to methyl nitrosourea (MNU), ethyl nitrosourea (ENU), methyl methanesulfonate (MMS), ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS), bleomycin (BLM), or UVC. In Comet assay, cells were exposed to each mutagen with (Comet assay/araC) and without (Comet assay) DNA repair inhibitors (araC and hydroxyurea). Furthermore, acellular Comet assay (acellular assay) was performed to determine how single-strand breaks (SSBs) as the initial damage contributes to DNA migration and/or to micronucleus formation. The lowest genotoxic dose (LGD), which is defined as the lowest dose at which each mutagen causes a positive response on each genotoxicity assay, was used to compare the power of the Comet assay to detect a low level of genotoxic potential and that of MN test; that is, a low LGD indicates a high power. Results are summarized as follows: (1) for all mutagens studied, LGDs were MN test ≦ Comet assay; (2) except for BLM, LGDs were Comet assay/araC ≦ MN test; (3) except for UVC and MNU, LGDs were acellular assay ≦ Comet assay/araC ≦ MN test ≦ Comet assay. The following is suggested by the present findings: (1) LGD in the Comet assay is higher than that in MN test, which suggests that the power of the MN test to detect a low level of genotoxic potential is superior to that of the Comet assay; (2) for the studied mutagens, all assays were able to detect all mutagens correctly, which suggests that the sensitivity of the Comet assay and that of the MN test were exactly identical; (3) the power of the Comet assay to detect a low level of genotoxic potential can be elevated to a level higher than that of MN test by using DNA resynthesis inhibitors, such as araC and HU.
PMCID: PMC2967831  PMID: 21052491
14.  Polymorphisms in DNA repair genes and risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in a pooled analysis of three studies 
British journal of haematology  2010;151(3):239-244.
Elevated incidence of lymphoma has been observed among carriers of rare high-penetrance mutations in DNA repair genes (e.g., Nijmegen breakage syndrome, Ataxia-telangectasia syndrome, etc.). Common gene variants in DNA repair genes may also influence lymphomagenesis.
Study subjects were pooled from three population-based case-control studies of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in the US and Australia. A total of 1,946 cases and 1,808 controls were analyzed. A total of 319 tag single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 27 DNA repair gene regions were genotyped. Unconditional logistic regression models were used to estimate the relative risk of NHL and NHL subtypes in relation to SNPs. Tail-strength statistics were used to test for the association between DNA repair pathways and NHL or NHL subtypes. The statistical significance of the smallest P-trend within each gene region was estimated by permutation-based resampling methods.
Overall, DNA repair genetic polymorphisms were associated with NHL (P = 0.005). Tests for the double strand break repair (P = 0.02) and nucleotide excision repair (P = 0.04) pathways were also significant. Four gene regions were significantly associated with NHL or NHL subtypes at the 0.05 level: RAD50, BLM, RAD51/FAM82C, and ERCC3/MAP3K2. Specifically, BLM rs441399 (P trend = 0.004) and FAM82C rs2304583 (P trend = 0.001) were associated with follicular lymphoma, and XRCC4 rs13178127 was associated with NHL overall (P trend = 0.006) significantly. In addition, the ERCC3 rs4150506 was associated with reduced risk for marginal zone lymphoma (P trend = 0.002).
These results support the hypothesis that common genetic polymorphisms in human DNA repair genes may modify the risk of NHL.
PMCID: PMC2967772  PMID: 20813000
non-Hodgkin lymphoma; DNA repair; single nucleotide polymorphism; pooled analysis
15.  Possible anti-recombinogenic role of Bloom’s syndrome helicase in double-strand break processing 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(21):6272-6282.
Bloom’s syndrome (BS) which associates genetic instability and predisposition to cancer is caused by mutations in the BLM gene encoding a RecQ family 3′–5′ DNA helicase. It has been proposed that the generation of genetic instability in BS cells could result from an aberrant non-homologous DNA end joining (NHEJ), one of the two main DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair pathways in mammalian cells, the second major pathway being homologous recombination (HR). Using cell extracts, we report first that Ku70/80 and the catalytic subunit of the DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PKcs), key factors of the end-joining machinery, and BLM are located in close proximity on DNA and that BLM binds to DNA only in the absence of ATP. In the presence of ATP, BLM is phosphorylated and dissociates from DNA in a strictly DNA-PKcs-dependent manner. We also show that BS cells display, in vivo, an accurate joining of DSBs, reflecting thus a functional NHEJ pathway. In sharp contrast, a 5-fold increase of the HR-mediated DNA DSB repair in BS cells was observed. These results support a model in which NHEJ activation mediates BLM dissociation from DNA, whereas, under conditions where HR is favored, e.g. at the replication fork, BLM exhibits an anti-recombinogenic role.
PMCID: PMC275476  PMID: 14576316
16.  Estimates of DNA damage by the comet assay in the direct-developing frog Eleutherodactylus johnstonei (Anura, Eleutherodactylidae) 
Genetics and Molecular Biology  2011;34(4):681-688.
The aim of this study was to use the Comet assay to assess genetic damage in the direct-developing frog Eleutherodactylus johnstonei. A DNA diffusion assay was used to evaluate the effectiveness of alkaline, enzymatic and alkaline/enzymatic treatments for lysing E. johnstonei blood cells and to determine the amount of DNA strand breakage associated with apoptosis and necrosis. Cell sensitivity to the mutagens bleomycin (BLM) and 4-nitro-quinoline-1-oxide (4NQO) was also assessed using the Comet assay, as was the assay reproducibility. Alkaline treatment did not lyse the cytoplasmic and nuclear membranes of E. johnstonei blood cells, whereas enzymatic digestion with proteinase K (40 μg/mL) yielded naked nuclei. The contribution of apoptosis and necrosis (assessed by the DNA diffusion assay) to DNA damage was estimated to range from 0% to 8%. BLM and 4NQO induced DNA damage in E. johnstonei blood cells at different concentrations and exposure times. Dose-effect curves with both mutagens were highly reproducible and showed consistently low coefficients of variation (CV ≤ 10%). The results are discussed with regard to the potential use of the modified Comet assay for assessing the exposure of E. johnstonei to herbicides in ecotoxicological studies.
PMCID: PMC3229125  PMID: 22215974
bleomycin; Comet assay; DNA diffusion assay; Eleutherodactylus johnstonei; 4-nitroquinoline-1-oxide
17.  Synthesis and SAR studies of 5-(pyridin-4-yl)-1,3,4-thiadiazol-2-amine derivatives as potent inhibitors of Bloom Helicase 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry letters  2013;23(20):10.1016/j.bmcl.2013.08.025.
Human cells utilize a variety of complex DNA repair mechanisms in order to combat constant mutagenic and cytotoxic threats from both exogenous and endogenous sources. The RecQ family of DNA helicases, which includes Bloom helicase (BLM), plays an important function in DNA repair by unwinding complementary strands of duplex DNA as well as atypical DNA structures such as Holliday junctions. Mutations of the BLM gene can result in Bloom syndrome, an autosomal recessive disorder associated with cancer predisposition. BLM-deficient cells exhibit increased sensitivity to DNA damaging agents indicating that a selective BLM inhibitor could be useful in potentiating the anticancer activity of these agents. In this work, we describe the medicinal chemistry optimization of the “hit” molecule following a quantitative high-throughput screen of >355,000 compounds. These efforts lead to the identification of ML216 and related analogs, which possess sub-micromolar BLM inhibition and exhibit selectivity over related helicases. Moreover, these compounds demonstrated cellular activity by inducing sister chromatid exchanges, a hallmark of Bloom syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3824626  PMID: 24012121
Bloom Helicase; Small molecule; inhibitor
18.  Somatic frameshift mutations in the Bloom syndrome BLM gene are frequent in sporadic gastric carcinomas with microsatellite mutator phenotype 
BMC Genetics  2001;2:14.
Genomic instability has been reported at microsatellite tracts in few coding sequences. We have shown that the Bloom syndrome BLM gene may be a target of microsatelliteinstability (MSI) in a short poly-adenine repeat located in its coding region. To further characterize the involvement of BLM in tumorigenesis, we have investigated mutations in nine genes containing coding microsatellites in microsatellite mutator phenotype (MMP) positive and negative gastric carcinomas (GCs).
We analyzed 50 gastric carcinomas (GCs) for mutations in the BLM poly(A) tract aswell as in the coding microsatellites of the TGFβ1-RII, IGFIIR, hMSH3, hMSH6, BAX, WRN, RECQL and CBL genes.
BLM mutations were found in 27% of MMP+ GCs (4/15 cases) but not in any of the MMP negative GCs (0/35 cases). The frequency of mutations in the other eight coding regions microsatellite was the following: TGFβ1-RII (60 %), BAX (27%), hMSH6 (20%),hMSH3 (13%), CBL (13%), IGFIIR (7%), RECQL (0%) and WRN (0%). Mutations in BLM appear to be more frequently associated with frameshifts in BAX and in hMSH6and/or hMSH3. Tumors with BLM alterations present a higher frequency of unstable mono- and trinucleotide repeats located in coding regions as compared with mutator phenotype tumors without BLM frameshifts.
BLM frameshifts are frequent alterations in GCs specifically associated with MMP+tumors. We suggest that BLM loss of function by MSI may increase the genetic instability of a pre-existent unstable genotype in gastric tumors.
PMCID: PMC48142  PMID: 11532193
19.  A Designer Bleomycin with Significantly Improved DNA Cleavage Activity 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2012;134(32):13501-13509.
The bleomycins (BLMs) are used clinically in combination with a number of other agents for the treatment of several types of tumors, and the BLM, etoposide, and cisplatin treatment regimen cures 90–95% of metastatic testicular cancer patients. BLM-induced pneumonitis is the most feared, dose-limiting side effect of BLM in chemotherapy, which can progress into lung fibrosis and affect up to 46% of the total patient population. There have been continued efforts to develop new BLM analogues in the search for anticancer drugs with better clinical efficacy and lower lung toxicity. We have previously cloned and characterized the biosynthetic gene clusters for BLMs from Streptomyces verticillus ATCC15003, tallysomycins from Streptoalloteichus hindustanus E465-94 ATCC31158, and zorbamycin (ZBM) from Streptomyces flavoviridis SB9001. Comparative analysis of the three biosynthetic machineries provided the molecular basis for the formulation of hypotheses to engineer novel analogues. We now report engineered production of three new analogues, 6′-hydroxy-ZBM, BLM Z, and 6′-deoxy-BLM Z and the evaluation of their DNA cleavage activities as a measurement for their potential anticancer activity. Our findings unveiled: (i) the disaccharide moiety plays an important role in the DNA cleavage activity of BLMs and ZBMs, (ii) the ZBM disaccharide significantly enhances the potency of BLM, and (iii) 6′-deoxy-BLM Z represents the most potent BLM analogue known to date. The fact that 6′-deoxy-BLM Z can be produced in reasonable quantities by microbial fermentation should greatly facilitate follow-up mechanistic and preclinical studies to potentially advance this analogue into a clinical drug.
PMCID: PMC3422780  PMID: 22831455
20.  A Multiprotein Nuclear Complex Connects Fanconi Anemia and Bloom Syndrome 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(10):3417-3426.
Bloom syndrome (BS) is a genetic disorder associated with dwarfism, immunodeficiency, reduced fertility, and an elevated risk of cancer. To investigate the mechanism of this disease, we isolated from human HeLa extracts three complexes containing the helicase defective in BS, BLM. Interestingly, one of the complexes, termed BRAFT, also contains five of the Fanconi anemia (FA) complementation group proteins (FA proteins). FA resembles BS in genomic instability and cancer predisposition, but most of its gene products have no known biochemical activity, and the molecular pathogenesis of the disease is poorly understood. BRAFT displays a DNA-unwinding activity, which requires the presence of BLM because complexes isolated from BLM-deficient cells lack such an activity. The complex also contains topoisomerase IIIα and replication protein A, proteins that are known to interact with BLM and could facilitate unwinding of DNA. We show that BLM complexes isolated from an FA cell line have a lower molecular mass. Our study provides the first biochemical characterization of a multiprotein FA complex and suggests a connection between the BLM and FA pathways of genomic maintenance. The findings that FA proteins are part of a DNA-unwinding complex imply that FA proteins may participate in DNA repair.
PMCID: PMC164758  PMID: 12724401
21.  Comparison of clastogen-induced gene expression profiles in wild-type and DNA repair-deficient Rad54/Rad54B cells 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:24.
Previously we found that Rad54/Rad54B cells are more sensitive towards mitomycin C (MMC) as compared to wild-type (WT) cells. This difference in sensitivity was absent upon exposure to other clastogens like bleomycin (BLM) and γ-radiation. In order to get further insight into possible underlying mechanisms, gene expression changes in WT and Rad54/Rad54B MEFs (mouse embryonic fibroblasts) after exposure to the clastogens MMC and BLM were investigated. Exposures of these cells to mutagens (N-ac-AAF and ENU) and vehicle were taken as controls.
Most exposures resulted in an induction of DNA damage signaling and apoptosis genes and a reduced expression of cell division genes in cells of both genotypes. As expected, responses to N-ac-AAF were very similar in both genotypes. ENU exposure did not lead to significant gene expression changes in cells of both genotypes, presumably due to its short half-life. Gene expression responses to clastogens, however, showed a genotype-dependent effect for BLM and MMC. MMC treated Rad54/Rad54B MEFs showed no induction of p53-signaling, DNA damage response and apoptosis as seen for all the other treatments.
These data support our finding that different types of clastogens exist and that responses to these types depend on the DNA repair status of the cells.
PMCID: PMC2824718  PMID: 20067618
22.  14-3-3ε Mediates the Cell Fate Decision-Making Pathways in Response of Hepatocellular Carcinoma to Bleomycin-Induced DNA Damage 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e55268.
Lack of understanding of the response of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) to anticancer drugs causes the high mortality of HCC patients. Bleomycin (BLM) that induces DNA damage is clinically used for cancer therapy, while the mechanism underlying BLM-induced DNA damage response (DDR) in HCC cells remains ambiguous. Given that 14-3-3 proteins are broadly involved in regulation of diverse biological processes (BPs)/pathways, we investigate how a 14-3-3 isoform coordinates particular BPs/pathways in BLM-induced DDR in HCC.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using dual-tagging quantitative proteomic approach, we dissected the 14-3-3ε interactome formed during BLM-induced DDR, which revealed that 14-3-3ε via its associations with multiple pathway-specific proteins coordinates multiple pathways including chromosome remodeling, DNA/RNA binding/processing, DNA repair, protein ubiquitination/degradation, cell cycle arrest, signal transduction and apoptosis. Further, “zoom-in” investigation of the 14-3-3ε interacting network indicated that the BLM-induced interaction between 14-3-3ε and a MAP kinase TAK1 plays a critical role in determining cell propensity of apoptosis. Functional characterization of this interaction further revealed that BLM triggers site-specific phosphorylations in the kinase domain of TAK1. These BLM-induced changes of phosphorylations directly correlate to the strength of the TAK1 binding to 14-3-3ε, which govern the phosphorylation-dependent TAK1 activation. The enhanced 14-3-3ε-TAK1 association then inhibits the anti-apoptotic activity of TAK1, which ultimately promotes BLM-induced apoptosis in HCC cells. In a data-dependent manner, we then derived a mechanistic model where 14-3-3ε plays the pivotal role in integrating diverse biological pathways for cellular DDR to BLM in HCC.
Our data demonstrated on a systems view that 14-3-3ε coordinates multiple biological pathways involved in BLM-induced DDR in HCC cells. Specifically, 14-3-3ε associates with TAK1 in a phosphorylation-dependent manner to determine the cell fate of BLM-treated HCC cells. Not only individual proteins but also those critical links in the network could be the potential targets for BLM-mediated therapeutic intervention of HCC.
PMCID: PMC3589417  PMID: 23472066
23.  NOXA-Induced Alterations in the Bax/Smac Axis Enhance Sensitivity of Ovarian Cancer Cells to Cisplatin 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36722.
Ovarian cancer is the most common cause of death from gynecologic malignancy. Deregulation of p53 and/or p73-associated apoptotic pathways contribute to the platinum-based resistance in ovarian cancer. NOXA, a pro-apoptotic BH3-only protein, is identified as a transcription target of p53 and/or p73. In this study, we found that genetic variants of Bcl-2 proteins exist among cisplatin-sensitive and -resistant ovarian cancer cells, and the responses of NOXA and Bax to cisplatin are regulated mainly by p53. We further evaluated the effect of NOXA on cisplatin. NOXA induced apoptosis and sensitized A2780s and SKOV3 cells to cisplatin in vitro and in vivo. The effects were mediated by elevated Bax expression, enhanced caspase activation, release of Cyt C and Smac into the cytosol. Furthermore, gene silencing of Bax or Smac significantly attenuated NOXA and/or cisplatin-induced apoptosis in chemosensitive A2780s cells, whereas overexpression of Bax or addition of Smac-N7 peptide significantly increased NOXA and/or cisplatin-induced apoptosis in chemoresistant SKOV3 cells. To our knowledge, these data suggest a new mechanism by which NOXA chemosensitized ovarian cancer cells to cisplatin by inducing alterations in the Bax/Smac axis. Taken together, our findings show that NOXA is potentially useful as a chemosensitizer in ovarian cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3348888  PMID: 22590594
24.  Depletion of the Bloom Syndrome Helicase Stimulates Homology-Dependent Repair at Double-Strand Breaks in Human Chromosomes 
DNA repair  2011;10(4):416-426.
Mutation of BLM helicase causes Blooms syndrome, a disorder associated with genome instability, high levels of sister chromatid exchanges, and cancer predisposition. To study the influence of BLM on double-strand break (DSB) repair in human chromosomes, we stably transfected a normal human cell line with a DNA substrate that contained a thymidine kinase (tk)-neo fusion gene disrupted by the recognition site for endonuclease I-SceI. The substrate also contained a closely linked functional tk gene to serve as a recombination partner for the tk-neo fusion gene. We derived two cell lines each containing a single integrated copy of the DNA substrate. In these cell lines, a DSB was introduced within the tk-neo fusion gene by expression of I-SceI. DSB repair events that occurred via homologous recombination (HR) or nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) were recovered by selection for G418-resistant clones. DSB repair was examined under conditions of either normal BLM expression or reduced BLM expression brought about by RNA interference. We report that BLM knockdown in both cell lines specifically increased the frequency of HR events that produced deletions by crossovers or single-strand annealing while leaving the frequency of gene conversions unchanged or reduced. We observed no change in the accuracy of individual HR events and no substantial alteration of the nature of individual NHEJ events when BLM expression was reduced. Our work provides the first direct evidence that BLM influences DSB repair pathway choice in human chromosomes and suggests that BLM deficiency can engender genomic instability by provoking an increased frequency of HR events of a potentially deleterious nature.
PMCID: PMC3062690  PMID: 21300576
double-strand break repair; homologous recombination; nonhomologous end-joining; Bloom syndrome; human cell culture
25.  Regulation and Localization of the Bloom Syndrome Protein in Response to DNA Damage 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2001;153(2):367-380.
Bloom syndrome (BS) is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by a high incidence of cancer and genomic instability. BLM, the protein defective in BS, is a RecQ-like helicase, presumed to function in DNA replication, recombination, or repair. BLM localizes to promyelocytic leukemia protein (PML) nuclear bodies and is expressed during late S and G2. We show, in normal human cells, that the recombination/repair proteins hRAD51 and replication protein (RP)-A assembled with BLM into a fraction of PML bodies during late S/G2. Biochemical experiments suggested that BLM resides in a nuclear matrix–bound complex in which association with hRAD51 may be direct. DNA-damaging agents that cause double strand breaks and a G2 delay induced BLM by a p53- and ataxia-telangiectasia mutated independent mechanism. This induction depended on the G2 delay, because it failed to occur when G2 was prevented or bypassed. It coincided with the appearance of foci containing BLM, PML, hRAD51 and RP-A, which resembled ionizing radiation-induced foci. After radiation, foci containing BLM and PML formed at sites of single-stranded DNA and presumptive repair in normal cells, but not in cells with defective PML. Our findings suggest that BLM is part of a dynamic nuclear matrix–based complex that requires PML and functions during G2 in undamaged cells and recombinational repair after DNA damage.
PMCID: PMC2169463  PMID: 11309417
RECQ helicases; p53; ATM; nuclear matrix; homologous recombination

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