Journal Article

Signalling cell cycle arrest and cell death through the MMR System

Vincent O'Brien and Robert Brown

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 27, issue 4, pages 682-692
Published in print April 2006 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online December 2005 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI:

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Loss of DNA mismatch repair (MMR) in mammalian cells, as well as having a causative role in cancer, has been linked to resistance to certain DNA damaging agents including clinically important cytotoxic chemotherapeutics. MMR-deficient cells exhibit defects in G2/M cell cycle arrest and cell killing when treated with these agents. MMR-dependent cell cycle arrest occurs, at least for low doses of alkylating agents, only after the second S-phase following DNA alkylation, suggesting that two rounds of DNA replication are required to generate a checkpoint signal. These results point to an indirect role for MMR proteins in damage signalling where aberrant processing of mismatches leads to the generation of DNA structures (single-strand gaps and/or double-strand breaks) that provoke checkpoint activation and cell killing. Significantly, recent studies have revealed that the role of MMR proteins in mismatch repair can be uncoupled from the MMR-dependent damage responses. Thus, there is a threshold of expression of MSH2 or MLH1 required for proper checkpoint and cell-death signalling, even though sub-threshold levels are sufficient for fully functional MMR repair activity. Segregation is also revealed through the identification of mutations in MLH1 or MSH2 that provide alleles functional in MMR but not in DNA damage responses and mutations in MSH6 that compromise MMR but not in apoptotic responses to DNA damaging agents. These studies suggest a direct role for MMR proteins in recognizing and signalling DNA damage responses that is independent of the MMR catalytic repair process. How MMR-dependent G2 arrest may link to cell death remains elusive and we speculate that it is perhaps the resolution of the MMR-dependent G2 cell cycle arrest following DNA damage that is important in terms of cell survival.

Keywords: ATM, ataxia telangiectasia mutated; ATRIP, ATR interacting protein; DSBs, double-strand breaks; O6-meG, O6-methylguanine; MMR, mismatch repair; MNNG, N-methyl-N′-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine; 6-TG, 6-thioguanine

Journal Article.  10322 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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