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1.  Ubc9 Mediates Nuclear Localization and Growth Suppression of BRCA1 and BRCA1a Proteins 
Journal of Cellular Physiology  2011;226(12):3355-3367.
BRCA1 gene mutations are responsible for hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. In sporadic breast tumors, BRCA1 dysfunction or aberrant subcellular localization is thought to be common. BRCA1 is a nuclear–cytoplasm shuttling protein and the reason for cytoplasmic localization of BRCA1 in young breast cancer patients is not yet known. We have previously reported BRCA1 proteins unlike K109R and cancer-predisposing mutant C61G to bind Ubc9 and modulate ER-α turnover. In the present study, we have examined the consequences of altered Ubc9 binding and knockdown on the subcellular localization and growth inhibitory function of BRCA1 proteins. Our results using live imaging of YFP, GFP, RFP-tagged BRCA1, BRCA1a and BRCA1b proteins show enhanced cytoplasmic localization of K109 R and C61G mutant BRCA1 proteins in normal and cancer cells. Furthermore, down-regulation of Ubc9 in MCF-7 cells using Ubc9 siRNA resulted in enhanced cytoplasmic localization of BRCA1 protein and exclusive cytoplasmic retention of BRCA1a and BRCA1b proteins. These mutant BRCA1 proteins were transforming and impaired in their capacity to inhibit growth of MCF-7 and CAL51 breast cancer cells. Interestingly, cytoplasmic BRCA1a mutants showed more clonogenicity in soft agar and higher levels of expression of Ubc9 than parental MCF7 cells. This is the first report demonstrating the physiological link between cytoplasmic mislocalization of mutant BRCA1 proteins, loss of ER-α repression, loss of ubiquitin ligase activity and loss of growth suppression of BRCA1 proteins. Thus, binding of BRCA1 proteins to nuclear chaperone Ubc9 provides a novel mechanism for nuclear import and control of tumor growth.
PMCID: PMC3329759  PMID: 21344391
2.  The BRCA1 Breast Cancer Suppressor: Regulation of Transport, Dynamics, and Function at Multiple Subcellular Locations 
Scientifica  2012;2012:796808.
Inherited mutations in the BRCA1 gene predispose to a higher risk of breast/ovarian cancer. The BRCA1 tumor suppressor is a 1863 amino acid protein with multiple protein interaction domains that facilitate its roles in regulating DNA repair and maintenance, cell cycle progression, transcription, and cell survival/apoptosis. BRCA1 was first identified as a nuclear phosphoprotein, but has since been shown to contain different transport sequences including nuclear export and nuclear localization signals that enable it to shuttle between specific sites within the nucleus and cytoplasm, including DNA repair foci, centrosomes, and mitochondria. BRCA1 nuclear transport and ubiquitin E3 ligase enzymatic activity are tightly regulated by the BRCA1 dimeric binding partner BARD1 and further modulated by cancer mutations and diverse signaling pathways. This paper will focus on the transport, dynamics, and multiple intracellular destinations of BRCA1 with emphasis on how regulation of these events has impact on, and determines, a broad range of important cellular functions.
PMCID: PMC3820561  PMID: 24278741
3.  EMSY overexpression disrupts the BRCA2/RAD51 pathway in the DNA-damage response: implications for chromosomal instability/recombination syndromes as checkpoint diseases 
Molecular Genetics and Genomics  2011;285(4):325-340.
EMSY links the BRCA2 pathway to sporadic breast/ovarian cancer. It encodes a nuclear protein that binds to the BRCA2 N-terminal domain implicated in chromatin/transcription regulation, but when sporadically amplified/overexpressed, increased EMSY level represses BRCA2 transactivation potential and induces chromosomal instability, mimicking the activity of BRCA2 mutations in the development of hereditary breast/ovarian cancer. In addition to chromatin/transcription regulation, EMSY may also play a role in the DNA-damage response, suggested by its ability to localize at chromatin sites of DNA damage/repair. This implies that EMSY overexpression may also repress BRCA2 in DNA-damage replication/checkpoint and recombination/repair, coordinated processes that also require its interacting proteins: PALB2, the partner and localizer of BRCA2; RPA, replication/checkpoint protein A; and RAD51, the inseparable recombination/repair enzyme. Here, using a well-characterized recombination/repair assay system, we demonstrate that a slight increase in EMSY level can indeed repress these two processes independently of transcriptional interference/repression. Since EMSY, RPA and PALB2 all bind to the same BRCA2 region, these findings further support a scenario wherein: (a) EMSY amplification may mimic BRCA2 deficiency, at least by overriding RPA and PALB2, crippling the BRCA2/RAD51 complex at DNA-damage and replication/transcription sites; and (b) BRCA2/RAD51 may coordinate these processes by employing at least EMSY, PALB2 and RPA. We extensively discuss the molecular details of how this can happen to ascertain its implications for a novel recombination mechanism apparently conceived as checkpoint rather than a DNA repair system for cell division, survival, death, and human diseases, including the tissue specificity of cancer predisposition, which may renew our thinking about targeted therapy and prevention.
PMCID: PMC3064890  PMID: 21409565
Tumor-suppressor genes; Oncogenes; Development/abortion; Aging; Estrogens
4.  A cancer-associated BRCA2 mutation reveals masked nuclear export signals controlling localization 
Nature structural & molecular biology  2013;20(10):1191-1198.
Germline mis-sense mutations affecting a single BRCA2 allele predispose humans to cancer. Here, we identify a protein-targeting mechanism disrupted by the cancer-associated mutation, BRCA2D2723H that controls the nuclear localization of BRCA2 and its cargo, the recombination enzyme RAD51. A nuclear export signal (NES) in BRCA2 is masked by its interaction with a partner protein, DSS1, such that point mutations impairing BRCA2-DSS1 binding render BRCA2 cytoplasmic. In turn, cytoplasmic mis-localization of mutant BRCA2 inhibits the nuclear retention of RAD51, by exposing a similar NES in RAD51 usually obscured by the BRCA2-RAD51 interaction. Thus, a series of NES-masking interactions localizes BRCA2 and RAD51 in the nucleus. Interestingly, BRCA2D2723H decreases RAD51 nuclear retention even when wildtype BRCA2 is present. Our findings suggest a mechanism for regulation of the nucleo-cytoplasmic distribution of BRCA2 and RAD51, and for its impairment by a heterozygous disease-associated mutation.
PMCID: PMC3796201  PMID: 24013206
BRCA2; RAD51; nuclear localization; protein targeting; cancer predisposition; germline mutation
5.  Mitochondrial localization, ELK-1 transcriptional regulation and Growth inhibitory functions of BRCA1, BRCA1a and BRCA1b proteins 
Journal of cellular physiology  2009;219(3):634-641.
BRCA1 is a tumor suppressor gene that is mutated in families with breast and ovarian cancer. Several BRCA1 splice variants are found in different tissues, but their subcellular localization and functions are poorly understood at the moment. We previously described BRCA1 splice variant BRCA1a to induce apoptosis and function as a tumor suppressor of triple negative breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. In this study we have analyzed the function of BRCA1 isoforms (BRCA1a and BRCA1b) and compared them to the wild type BRCA1 protein using several criteria like studying expression in normal and tumor cells by RNase protection assays, sub cellular localization/fractionation by immunofluorescence microscopy and western blot analysis, transcription regulation of biological relevant proteins and growth suppression in breast cancer cells. We are demonstrating for the first time that ectopically expressed GFP-tagged BRCA1, BRCA1a, and BRCA1b proteins are localized to the mitochondria, repress ELK-1 transcriptional activity and possess antiproliferative activity on breast cancer cells. These results suggest that the exon 9,10 and 11 sequences (aa 263 – 1365) which contain two nuclear localization signals, p53, Rb, c-Myc, γ- tubulin, Stat, Rad 51, Rad 50 binding domains, angiopoietin-1 repression domain are not absolutely required for mitochondrial localization and growth suppressor function of these proteins. Since mitochondrial dysfunction is a hallmark of cancer, we can speculate that the mitochondrial localization of BRCA1 proteins may be functionally significant in regulating both the mitochondrial DNA damage as well as apoptotic activity of BRCA1 proteins and mislocalization causes cancer.
PMCID: PMC3693557  PMID: 19170108
BRCA1/1a/1b proteins; breast cancers; mitochondria; growth suppression; transcriptional regulation; ELK-1
6.  BRCA1 and BRCA2 protein expressions in an ovotestis of a 46, XX true hermaphrodite 
Breast Cancer Research  2000;3(1):61-65.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer susceptibility genes encode proteins, the normal cellular functions of which are complex and multiple, and germ-line mutations in individuals predispose both to breast and to ovarian cancer. There is nevertheless substantial evidence linking BRCA1 and BRCA2 to homologous recombination and DNA repair, to transcriptional control and to tissue proliferation. There is controversy regarding the localization of BRCA1 and BRCA2 proteins to either nucleus or cytoplasm and whether the expression is present in premeiotic germ cells or can still be expressed in mitotic spermatogonia. We report herein an immunohistochemical study of BRCA1 and BRCA2 distribution in a rather unsual tissue (an ovotestis), which addresses this issue.
PMCID: PMC13901  PMID: 11250747
BRCA1; BRCA2; immunohistochemistry; ovotestis
7.  Accumulation of p53 protein is frequent in ovarian cancers associated with BRCA1 and BRCA2 germline mutations. 
Journal of Clinical Pathology  1999;52(5):372-375.
BACKGROUND: Mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are responsible for up to 95% of hereditary ovarian cancer cases. Both genes function as tumour suppressor genes, and development of a cancer is thought to require an accumulation of somatic genetic events in addition to the inherited germline predisposition. It is unknown whether these somatic events in BRCA associated ovarian cancer are similar to or distinct from those in sporadic cases. The most frequent somatic genetic event in ovarian cancer is a mutation of the p53 gene. AIM: To study the role of p53 in hereditary ovarian cancer, by analysing accumulation of the p53 protein in ovarian cancers which occurred in BRCA1 or BRCA2 germline mutation carriers and comparing the results with a panel of ovarian cancers from patients who tested negative for both BRCA1 and BRCA2. METHODS: The study group consisted of 39 ovarian cancer patients in whom a BRCA mutation had been confirmed previously. p53 Immunohistochemistry was performed on archival tissue using a standard microwave antigen retrieval technique. The rate of p53 accumulation was compared with 40 ovarian cancer cases who tested negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2 germline mutations. RESULTS: P53 Accumulation was similar in BRCA related ovarian cancers and BRCA negative controls. Overall 27 of 39 BRCA1 or BRCA2 positive cases (69%) had evidence of p53 accumulation, compared with 24 of 40 invasive ovarian cancer cases (60%) which tested negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2 germline mutations. BRCA1 related ovarian cancers showed p53 accumulation in 22 of 30 cases (73%); p53 accumulation was present in five of nine BRCA2 related ovarian cancers. CONCLUSIONS: In addition to germline BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, somatic p53 alterations leading to p53 accumulation are an important event in hereditary ovarian cancer and are as frequent as in non-BRCA-related ovarian cancer.
PMCID: PMC1023075  PMID: 10560359
8.  BRCA1 and BRCA2 Unclassified Variants and Missense Polymorphisms in Algerian Breast/Ovarian Cancer Families 
Disease markers  2012;32(6):343-353.
Background: BRCA1 and BRCA2 germline mutations predispose heterozygous carriers to hereditary breast/ovarian cancer. However, unclassified variants (UVs) (variants with unknown clinical significance) and missense polymorphisms in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes pose a problem in genetic counseling, as their impact on risk of breast and ovarian cancer is still unclear. The objective of our study was to identify UVs and missense polymorphisms in Algerian breast/ovarian cancer patients and relatives tested previously for BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes germline mutations analysis.
Methods: We analyzed 101 DNA samples from 79 breast/ovarian cancer families. The approach used is based on BRCA1 and BRCA2 sequence variants screening by SSCP or High-Resolution Melting (HRM) curve analysis followed by direct sequencing. In silico analyses have been performed using different bioinformatics programs to individualize genetics variations that can disrupt the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes function.
Results: Among 80 UVs and polymorphisms detected in BRCA1/2 genes (33 BRCA2 and 47 BRCA2), 31 were new UVs (10 BRCA2 and 21 BRCA2), 7 were rare UVs (4 BRCA2 and 3 BRCA2) and 42 were polymorphic variants (19 BRCA2 and 23 BRCA2). Moreover, 8 new missense UVs identified in this study: two BRCA1 (c.4066C>A/p.Gln1356Lys, c.4901G>T/p.Arg1634Met) located respectively in exons 11 and 16, and six BRCA2 (c.1099G>A/p.Asp367Asn, c.2636C>A/p.Ser879Tyr, c.3868T>A/p.Cys1290Ser, c.5428G>T/p.Val1810Phe, c.6346C>G/p.His2116Asp and c.9256G>A/p.Gly3086Arg) located respectively in exons 10, 11 and 24, show a damaging PSIC score yielded by PolyPhen2 program and could be pathogenic. In addition, 5 new BRCA2 missense UVs out of six that were found to be damaging by PolyPhen2 program, also were deleterious according to SIFT program. The rare BRCA2 UV c.5332G>A/p.Asp1778Asn was found here for the first time in co-occurrence in trans with the deleterious BRCA1 mutation c.798_799delTT/p.Ser267LysfsX19 in young breast cancer patient. Moreover, 10 new identified intronic variants with unknown clinical significance (3 BRCA1 and 7 BRCA2) in the present study, could be considered as benign, because GeneSplicer, SpliceSiteFinder and MaxEntScan prediction programs show no splice site alteration for these variants. Several missense polymorphisms of BRCA1 c.2612C>T/p.Pro871Leu, c.3548A>G/p.Lys1183Arg, c.4837A>G/p.Ser1613Gly and BRCA2 c.865A>C/p.Asn289His, c.1114A>C/p.Asn372His, c.2971A>G/p.Asn991Asp, c.7150C>A/p.Gly2384Lys have been identified with high frequency in patients who were tested negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. These missense polymorphisms could have a role as susceptibility breast cancer markers in Algerian breast/ovarian cancer families where pathological BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations were not present.
Conclusions: For the first time, UVs and missense polymorphisms in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have been identified in Algerian breast/ovarian cancer families. Evaluation of breast/ovarian cancer risk induced by the eight new missense UVs and common polymorphisms detected in our present work is on going in a larger study.
PMCID: PMC3826381  PMID: 22684231
Algeria; BRCA1; BRCA2; breast/ovarian cancer; HRM; polymorphisms; SNP; UVs
9.  Inhibition of Constitutively Activated Phosphoinositide 3-Kinase/AKT Pathway Enhances Antitumor Activity of Chemotherapeutic Agents in Breast Cancer Susceptibility Gene 1-Defective Breast Cancer Cells 
Molecular carcinogenesis  2012;52(9):667-675.
Loss or decrease of wild type BRCA1 function, by either mutation or reduced expression, has a role in hereditary and sporadic human breast and ovarian cancers. We report here that the PI3K/AKT pathway is constitutively active in BRCA1-defective human breast cancer cells. Levels of phospho-AKT are sustained even after serum starvation in breast cancer cells carrying deleterious BRCA1 mutations. Knockdown of BRCA1 in MCF7 cells increases the amount of phospho-AKT and sensitizes cells to small molecule protein kinase inhibitors (PKIs) targeting the PI3K/AKT pathway. Restoration of wild type BRCA1 inhibits the activated PI3K/AKT pathway and de-sensitizes cells to PKIs targeting this pathway in BRCA1 mutant breast cancer cells, regardless of PTEN mutations. In addition, clinical PI3K/mTOR inhibitors, PI-103 and BEZ235, showed anti-proliferative effects on BRCA1 mutant breast cancer cell lines and synergism in combination with chemotherapeutic drugs, cisplatin, doxorubicin, topotecan, and gemcitabine. BEZ235 synergizes with the anti-proliferative effects of gemcitabine by enhancing caspase-3/7 activity. Our results suggest that the PI3K/AKT pathway can be an important signaling pathway for the survival of BRCA1-defective breast cancer cells and pharmacological inhibition of this pathway is a plausible treatment for a subset of breast cancers.
PMCID: PMC3586771  PMID: 22488590
constitutive activation; PI3K/AKT pathway; BRCA1-defective breast cancer; kinase inhibitor; chemotherapeutic agents; synergism
10.  Quantitative proteomic identification of the BRCA1 ubiquitination substrates 
Journal of proteome research  2011;10(11):5191-5198.
Mutation of the BRCA1 tumor suppressor gene predisposes women to hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. BRCA1 forms a heterodimer with BARD1. The BRCA1/BARD1 heterodimer has ubiquitin ligase activity, considered to play crucial roles in tumor suppression and DNA damage response. Nevertheless, relevant BRCA1 substrates are poorly defined. We have developed a new approach to systematically identify the substrates of ubiquitin ligases by identifying proteins that display enhanced incorporation of His-tagged ubiquitin upon ligase co-expression; using this method, we identified several candidate substrates for BRCA1. These include scaffold attachment factor B2 (SAFB2), Tel2, as well as BARD1. BRCA1 was found to enhance SAFB protein expression and induce Tel2 nuclear translocation. Identification of the ubiquitination substrates has been a major obstacle to understanding the functions of ubiquitin ligases. The quantitative proteomics approach we devised for the identification of BRCA1 substrates will facilitate the identification of ubiquitin ligase-substrate pairs.
PMCID: PMC3208807  PMID: 21950761
BRCA1; BARD1; ubiquitination; substrate; quantitative proteomics
11.  Structure-Function Of The Tumor Suppressor BRCA1 
BRCA1, a multi-domain protein, is mutated in a large percentage of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. BRCA1 is most often mutated in three domains or regions: the N-terminal RING domain, exons 11–13, and the BRCT domain. The BRCA1 RING domain is responsible for the E3 ubiquitin ligase activity of BRCA1 and mediates interactions between BRCA1 and other proteins. BRCA1 ubiquitinates several proteins with various functions. The BRCA1 BRCT domain binds to phosphoproteins with specific sequences recognized by both BRCA1 and ATM/ATR kinases. Structural studies of the RING and BRCT domains have revealed the molecular basis by which cancer causing mutations impact the functions of BRCA1. While no structural data is available for the amino acids encoded by exons 11–13, multiple binding sites and functional domains exist in this region. Many mutations in exons 11–13 have deleterious effects on the function of these domains. In this mini-review, we examine the structure-function relationships of the BRCA1 protein and the relevance to cancer progression.
PMCID: PMC3380633  PMID: 22737296
12.  Structure-Function of the Tumor Suppressor BRCA1 
BRCA1, a multi-domain protein, is mutated in a large percentage of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. BRCA1 is most often mutated in three domains or regions: the N-terminal RING domain, exons 11-13, and the BRCT domain. The BRCA1 RING domain is responsible for the E3 ubiquitin ligase activity of BRCA1 and mediates interactions between BRCA1 and other proteins. BRCA1 ubiquitinates several proteins with various functions. The BRCA1 BRCT domain binds to phosphoproteins with specific sequences recognized by both BRCA1 and ATM/ATR kinases. Structural studies of the RING and BRCT domains have revealed the molecular basis by which cancer causing mutations impact the functions of BRCA1. While no structural data is available for the amino acids encoded by exons 11-13, multiple binding sites and functional domains exist in this region. Many mutations in exons 11-13 have deleterious effects on the function of these domains. In this mini-review, we examine the structure-function relationships of the BRCA1 protein and the relevance to cancer progression.
PMCID: PMC3380633  PMID: 22737296
13.  Localization of BRCA1 and a splice variant identifies the nuclear localization signal. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1997;17(1):444-452.
Inherited mutations in BRCA1 confer susceptibility to breast and ovarian neoplasms. However, the function of BRCA1 and the role of BRCA1 in noninherited cancer remain unknown. Characterization of alternately spliced forms of BRCA1 may identify functional regions; thus, we constructed expression vectors of BRCA1 and a splice variant lacking exon 11, designated BRCA1 delta 672-4095. Immunofluorescence studies indicate nuclear localization of BRCA1 but cytoplasmic localization of BRCA1 delta 672-4095. Two putative nuclear localization signals (designated NLS1 and NLS2) were identified in exon 11; immunofluorescence studies indicate that only NLS1 is required for nuclear localization. RNA analysis indicates the expression of multiple, tissue-specific forms of BRCA1 RNAs; protein analysis with multiple antibodies suggests that at least three BRCA1 isoforms are expressed, including those lacking exon 11. The results suggest that BRCA1 is a nuclear protein and raise the possibility that splicing is one form of regulation of BRCA1 function by alteration of the subcellular localization of expressed proteins.
PMCID: PMC231769  PMID: 8972225
14.  BRCA1 in the DNA damage response and at telomeres 
Mutations of the breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility gene 1 (BRCA1) account for about 40–45% of hereditary breast cancer cases. Moreover, a significant fraction of sporadic (non-hereditary) breast and ovarian cancers exhibit reduced or absent expression of the BRCA1 protein, suggesting an additional role for BRCA1 in sporadic cancers. BRCA1 follows the classic pattern of a highly penetrant Knudsen-type tumor suppressor gene in which one allele is inactivated through a germ-line mutation and the other is mutated or deleted within the tumor. BRCA1 is a multi-functional protein but it is not fully understood which function(s) is (are) most important for tumor suppression, nor is it clear why BRCA1-mutations confer a high risk for breast and ovarian cancers and not a broad spectrum of tumor types. Here, we will review BRCA1 functions in the DNA damage response (DDR), which are likely to contribute to tumor suppression. In the process, we will highlight some of the controversies and unresolved issues in the field. We will also describe a recently identified and under-investigated role for BRCA1 in the regulation of telomeres and the implications of this role in the DDR and cancer suppression.
PMCID: PMC3689208  PMID: 23802008
breast cancer susceptibility gene 1; DNA damage response; telomeres; ataxia-telangiectasia mutated; homology-directed repair; base excision repair; DNA damage signaling
15.  BRCA1/2 genetic background-based therapeutic tailoring of human ovarian cancer: hope or reality? 
Ovarian epithelial tumors are an hallmark of hereditary cancer syndromes which are related to the germ-line inheritance of cancer predisposing mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Although these genes have been associated with multiple different physiologic functions, they share an important role in DNA repair mechanisms and therefore in the whole genomic integrity control. These findings have risen a variety of issues in terms of treatment and prevention of breast and ovarian tumors arising in this context. Enhanced sensitivity to platinum-based anticancer drugs has been related to BRCA1/2 functional loss. Retrospective studies disclosed differential chemosensitivity profiles of BRCA1/2-related as compared to "sporadic" ovarian cancer and led to the identification of a "BRCA-ness" phenotype of ovarian cancer, which includes inherited BRCA1/2 germ-line mutations, a serous high grade histology highly sensitive to platinum derivatives. Molecularly-based tailored treatments of human tumors are an emerging issue in the "era" of molecular targeted drugs and molecular profiling technologies. We will critically discuss if the genetic background of ovarian cancer can indeed represent a determinant issue for decision making in the treatment selection and how the provocative preclinical findings might be translated in the therapeutic scenario. The presently available preclinical and clinical evidence clearly indicates that genetic background has an emerging role in treatment individualization for ovarian cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC2766378  PMID: 19825178
16.  Methylation and protein expression of DNA repair genes: association with chemotherapy exposure and survival in sporadic ovarian and peritoneal carcinomas 
Molecular Cancer  2009;8:48.
DNA repair genes critically regulate the cellular response to chemotherapy and epigenetic regulation of these genes may be influenced by chemotherapy exposure. Restoration of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mediates resistance to platinum chemotherapy in recurrent BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutated hereditary ovarian carcinomas. We evaluated BRCA1, BRCA2, and MLH1 protein expression in 115 sporadic primary ovarian carcinomas, of which 31 had paired recurrent neoplasms collected after chemotherapy. Additionally, we assessed whether promoter methylation of BRCA1, MLH1 or FANCF influenced response to chemotherapy or explained alterations in protein expression after chemotherapy exposure.
Of 115 primary sporadic ovarian carcinomas, 39 (34%) had low BRCA1 protein and 49 (42%) had low BRCA2 expression. BRCA1 and BRCA2 protein expression were highly concordant (p < 0.0001). MLH1 protein loss occurred in 28/115 (24%) primary neoplasms. BRCA1 protein loss in primary neoplasms was associated with better survival (p = 0.02 Log Rank test) and remained significant after accounting for either stage or age in a multivariate model (p = 0.04, Cox proportional hazards). In paired specimens, BRCA1 protein expression increased in 13/21 (62%) and BRCA2 protein expression increased in 15/21 (71%) of recurrent carcinomas with low or intermediate protein in the paired primary. In contrast MLH1 expression was rarely decreased in recurrent carcinomas (1/33, 3%). Similar frequencies of MLH1, BRCA1, and FANCF promoter methylation occurred in primary carcinomas without previous chemotherapy, after neoadjuvant chemotherapy, or in recurrent neoplasms.
Low BRCA1 expression in primary sporadic ovarian carcinoma is associated with prolonged survival. Recurrent ovarian carcinomas commonly have increased BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 protein expression post chemotherapy exposure which could mediate resistance to platinum based therapies. However, alterations in expression of these proteins after chemotherapy are not commonly mediated by promoter methylation, and other regulatory mechanisms are likely to contribute to these alterations.
PMCID: PMC2719582  PMID: 19602291
17.  Effect of BRCA1 on epidermal growth factor receptor in ovarian cancer 
Both BRCA1 and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) play a critical role in ovarian cancer progression. However, the crosstalk between BRCA1 and EGFR signaling pathways in ovarian cancer remains largely unknown.
The effect of BRCA1 on EGFR was assessed in 146 serous ovarian cancer patients (28 pairs of BRCA1-mutated or not, 23 pairs of BRCA2-mutated or not, and 22 pairs with hypermethylated BRCA1 promoter or not). BRCA1 promoter methylation was analyzed by bisulfite sequencing using primers flanking the core promoter region. Expression levels of BRCA1 and EGFR were assessed by immunohistochemistry and real-time PCR. The knockdown and overexpression of BRCA1 were achieved using a lentiviral vector in 293 T cells, SKOV3 ovarian cancer cells, and primary non-mutated and BRCA1-mutated ovarian cancer cells.
EGFR expression was increased in all cancer tissues compared to normal tissues. Additionally, EGFR expression was higher in normal tissues of BRCA1-mutated patients, and was further increased in cancer tissues; EGFR levels were also significantly elevated in ovarian cancer with promoter hypermethylation-mediated inactivation of BRCA1. BRCA1 knockdown was an effective way to activate EGFR expression in ovarian cancer cells.
These results indicate that BRCA1 may be a potential trigger in transcriptional regulation of EGFR in the development of ovarian cancer.
PMCID: PMC4029425  PMID: 24321281
BRCA1; BRCA2; Epidermal growth factor receptor; Ovarian cancer
18.  BRCA1 Immunohistochemistry in a Molecularly Characterized Cohort of Ovarian Carcinomas 
BRCA1 and BRCA2 dysfunction, frequently seen in high-grade serous ovarian carcinomas, often results from germline mutations, somatic mutations, and promoter methylation. Identification of tumors with BRCA defects has therapeutic and prognostic implications. Identifying germline BRCA mutations is also important given the increased risk for hereditary breast and ovarian carcinoma. Our goal was to assess if immunohistochemistry for BRCA1 is an effective method for detection of BRCA1 dysfunction in molecularly characterized high-grade ovarian serous carcinoma. We identified 43 high-grade ovarian serous carcinomas with known events in BRCA1 and BRCA2 included in The Cancer Genome Atlas Project (TCGA). BRCA1 stain was first assessed without knowledge of BRCA status, and a semiquantitative assessment for intensity and amount of staining was performed. The stains were re-evaluated and divided into 3 categories (retained, loss, and equivocal) based on correlation with genotyping data. Presence of retained BRCA staining was considered normal, while the other patterns, including equivocal staining or loss of staining, were considered abnormal. Two pathologists, blinded to BRCA status, then scored 2 sets of validation cases selected based on available molecular data—one with only germline mutation status available (n=31) and one with comprehensive genomic data (n=39). The pathologists agreed 88% of the time in the training set and 91% in the validation sets. In the training set, abnormal BRCA staining was seen in 24 cases, of which 21 (87%) showed BRCA1 genetic abnormalities, one showed BRCA2 mutations, and 2 showed no BRCA abnormalities. Abnormal BRCA1 staining was noted in all 5 cases with BRCA1 germline mutations, in 3 (60%) of 5 with BRCA1 somatic mutations, and in 13 (93%) of 14 with BRCA1 promoter methylation. The 2 validation sets included 70 additional patients, and all cases with germline BRCA1 mutations (n=11) showed abnormal BRCA1 staining. Tumors with BRCA1 promoter methylation also showed abnormal staining in 6 (86%) of 7 cases. In the entire study, no cases with BRCA1 germline mutation showed intact immunostaining (negative predictive value= 100%). This study shows BRCA1 immunohistochemistry is well correlated with molecular events in ovarian carcinoma. Considering the high negative predictive value for germline mutations, BRCA1 immunohistochemistry appears to be an effective approach to stratify patients for germline genetic testing and to detect other mechanisms of BRCA1 dysfunction in high-grade serous ovarian carcinomas.
PMCID: PMC3531916  PMID: 23232854
BRCA1; BRCA1 immunohistochemistry; ovarian carcinoma; protein expression; serous carcinoma
19.  Hereditary ovarian cancer and two-compartment tumor metabolism 
Cell Cycle  2012;11(22):4152-4166.
Mutations in the BRCA1 tumor suppressor gene are commonly found in hereditary ovarian cancers. Here, we used a co-culture approach to study the metabolic effects of BRCA1-null ovarian cancer cells on adjacent tumor-associated stromal fibroblasts. Our results directly show that BRCA1-null ovarian cancer cells produce large amounts of hydrogen peroxide, which can be abolished either by administration of simple antioxidants (N-acetyl-cysteine; NAC) or by replacement of the BRCA1 gene. Thus, the BRCA1 gene normally suppresses tumor growth by functioning as an antioxidant. Importantly, hydrogen peroxide produced by BRCA1-null ovarian cancer cells induces oxidative stress and catabolic processes in adjacent stromal fibroblasts, such as autophagy, mitophagy and glycolysis, via stromal NFκB activation. Catabolism in stromal fibroblasts was also accompanied by the upregulation of MCT4 and a loss of Cav-1 expression, which are established markers of a lethal tumor microenvironment. In summary, loss of the BRCA1 tumor suppressor gene induces hydrogen peroxide production, which then leads to metabolic reprogramming of the tumor stroma, driving stromal-epithelial metabolic coupling. Our results suggest that new cancer prevention trials with antioxidants are clearly warranted in patients that harbor hereditary/familial BRCA1 mutations.
PMCID: PMC3524211  PMID: 23047606
BRCA1 mutations; MCT4; NFκB activation; autophagy; caveolin-1 (Cav-1); hereditary ovarian cancer; hydrogen peroxide; mitophagy; oxidative stress; tumor metabolism
20.  Decreased BRCA1 Confers Tamoxifen Resistance in Breast Cancer Cells by Altering Estrogen Receptor-Coregulator Interactions 
Oncogene  2008;28(4):575-586.
The breast cancer susceptibility gene 1 (BRCA1) is mutated in approximately 50% of hereditary breast cancers, and its expression is decreased in 30–40% of sporadic breast cancers, suggesting a general role in breast cancer development. BRCA1 physically and functionally interacts with estrogen receptor-alpha (ERα) and several transcriptional regulators. We investigated the relationship between cellular BRCA1 levels and tamoxifen sensitivity. Decreasing BRCA1 expression in breast cancer cells by small interfering RNA alleviated tamoxifen-mediated growth inhibition and abolished tamoxifen suppression of several endogenous ER-targeted genes. ER-stimulated transcription and cytoplasmic signaling was increased without detectable changes in ER or ER coregulator expression. Co-immunoprecipitation studies showed that with BRCA1 knockdown, tamoxifen-bound ERα was inappropriately associated with coactivators, and not effectively with corepressors. Chromatin immunoprecipitation studies demonstrated that with tamoxifen, BRCA1 knockdown did not change ERα promoter occupancy, but resulted in increased coactivator and decreased corepressor recruitment onto the endogenous cyclin D1 promoter. Our results suggest that decreased BRCA1 levels modify ERα-mediated transcription and regulation of cell proliferation in part by altering ERα-coregulator association. In the presence of tamoxifen, decreased BRCA1 expression results in increased coactivator and decreased corepressor recruitment on ER-regulated gene promoters.
PMCID: PMC2714665  PMID: 18997820
tamoxifen resistance; BRCA1, ERα; coactivators; corepressors
21.  Positional analyses of BRCA1-dependent expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)  2008;7(24):3928-3934.
Mutations in BRCA1 account for a significant proportion of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers, but analysis of BRCA1 function is complicated by pleiotropic effects and binding partners (Pol II holoenzyme and transcription factors, chromatin remodelers, recombination complexes and E3 ligases). In vertebrate cells, efforts to elucidate BRCA1 transcriptional effects have focused on specific genes or restricted portions of the genome—limiting analyses of BRCA1 effects on adjoining DNA sequences and along chromosome lengths. Here, we use microarray analyses on the genetically tractable yeast cell system to elucidate BRCA1-dependent genome-wide positional effects on both gene induction and repression. Yeast responses may be of clinical relevance based on findings that BRCA1 severely diminishes yeast growth kinetics but that BRCA1 mutated at sites identified from breast tumors is no longer able to retard yeast cell growth kinetics. Our analysis suggests that BRCA1 acts through both transcription factors to upregulate specific loci and chromatin remodeling complexes to effect global changes in gene expression. BRCA1 also exhibits gene repression activities. Cluster-functional analysis reveals that these repressed factors are required for mitotic stability and provide a novel molecular explanation for the conditional lethality observed between BRCA1 and chromosome segregation genes.
PMCID: PMC3241008  PMID: 19098428
BRCA1; gene expression; chromosome segregation; aneuploidy; microarray; chromatin remodeling
22.  Function of BRCA1 in the DNA damage response is mediated by ADP-ribosylation 
Cancer cell  2013;23(5):693-704.
Carriers of BRCA1 germline mutations are predisposed to breast and ovarian cancers. Accumulated evidence shows that BRCA1 is quickly recruited to DNA lesions and plays an important role in the DNA damage response. However, the mechanism by which BRCA1 is recruited to DNA damage sites remains elusive. BRCA1 forms a Ring-domain heterodimer with BARD1, a major partner of BRCA1 that contains tandem BRCT motifs. Here, we identify the BRCTs of BARD1 as a poly(ADP-ribose) (PAR)-binding module. The binding of the BARD1 BRCTs to PAR targets the BRCA1/BARD1 heterodimer to DNA damage sites. Thus, our study uncovers a PAR-dependent mechanism of rapid recruitment of BRCA1/BARD1 to DNA damage sites.
PMCID: PMC3759356  PMID: 23680151
23.  Analysis of centrosome localization of BRCA1 and its activity in suppressing centrosomal aster formation 
Cell Cycle  2012;11(15):2931-2946.
BRCA1, a product of a familial breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility gene, localizes to centrosomes and physically interacts with γ-tubulin, a key centrosomal protein for microtubule nucleation and anchoring at centrosomes. Here, we performed a rigorous analysis of centrosome localization of BRCA1, and found that BRCA1 is specifically associated with mother centrioles in unduplicated centrosomes, and daughter centrioles acquire BRCA1 prior to initiation of duplication, and thus duplicated centrosomes are both bound by BRCA1. We further found that BRCA1 suppresses centrosomal aster formation. In addition, we identified a new domain of BRCA1 critical for γ-tubulin binding, which confers not only its localization to centrosomes, but also its activity to suppress centrosomal aster formation.
PMCID: PMC3419063  PMID: 22833046
BRCA1; centrosome; centriole; microtubules; aster formation
24.  A probability model for predicting BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations in breast and breast-ovarian cancer families 
British Journal of Cancer  2001;84(5):704-708.
Germline mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes predispose to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Our aim was to find associations between the clinical characteristics and positive mutation status in 148 breast cancer families in order to predict the probability of finding a BRCA mutation in a family. Several factors were associated with mutations in univariate analysis, whereas in multivariate analysis (logistic regression with backward selection) only the age of the youngest breast cancer patient and the number of ovarian cancer cases in a family were independent predictors of BRCA mutations. A logistic model was devised to estimate the probability for a family of harbouring a mutation in either BRCA1 or BRCA2. Altogether, 63 out of 148 families (43%) and 28 out of 29 (97%) mutation carrier families obtained probabilities over 10%. The mean probability was 55% for mutation-positive families and 11% for mutation-negative families. The models by Couch et al (1997) and Shattuck-Eidens et al (1997) previously designed for BRCA1 were also tested for their applicability to distinguish carrier families with mutations in either gene. The probability model should be a useful tool in genetic counselling and focusing the mutation analyses, and thus increasing also the cost-effectiveness of the genetic screening. © 2001 Cancer Research Campaign
PMCID: PMC2363799  PMID: 11237395
breast cancer; ovarian cancer; BRCA1; BRCA 2; mutation; probability model
25.  BRCA2 suppresses cell proliferation via stabilizing MAGE-D1 
Cancer Research  2005;65(11):4747-4753.
Germline mutations in BRCA2 gene predispose women to early-onset familial breast and ovarian cancer. BRCA2 is a protein of multiple functions. In addition to its role in DNA double-strand breaks repair, BRCA2 also plays a role in stabilization of stalled DNA replication forks, cytokinesis, transcription regulation, mammalian gametogenesis, centrosome duplication, and suppression of cell proliferation. However, how BRCA2 mutations predispose women specifically to breast and ovarian cancer remains undefined. Here we found that BRCA2 binds and stabilizes MAGE-D1, a member of the MAGE gene family of proteins. Expression of BRCA2 and MAGE-D1 synergistically suppresses cell proliferation independently of the p53 pathway. Using two MAGE-D1 RNAis and two cell lines expressing low or undetectable levels of MAGE-D1, we further demonstrated that the expression of MAGE-D1 is required for BRCA2-mediated suppression of cell proliferation, indicating that MAGE-D1 is a downstream target of BRCA2 and that BRCA2 suppresses cell proliferation via stabilizing MAGE-D1. Importantly, MAGE-D1 protein expression was reduced in 6 out of 16 breast carcinoma cell lines tested as compared with untransformed immortal mammary epithelial cell lines, suggesting that suppression of MAGE-D1 expression may be involved in the tumorigenesis of a subset of sporadic breast cancers.
PMCID: PMC3295243  PMID: 15930293

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