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Fanconi anemia (FA) is a cancer-predisposition syndrome characterized by hypersensitivity to interstrand-cross-link (ICL) inducers. FA hypersensitivity to ICL has been correlated with alterations in homologous recombination, non-homologous end-joining, telomere maintenance, DNA-damage assessment and checkpoint regulation, processes in which the components of the RAD50/MRE11/NBS1 (RMN) complex are involved. To better characterize the mechanisms by which ICL are processed in human cells and to gain insight into their toxicity in FA, we examined (i). the RMN complex assembling in response to the ICL inducers mitomycin C (MMC) and photoactivated 8-methoxypsoralen and (ii). the proficiency of FA cells to perform RMN activation in response to ICL inducers. We show here that ICL activates the assembly of the RMN proteins into subnuclear foci, and that their formation proceeds independently of ICL incision, a step mainly dependent on XP-F/ERCC1 heterodimer activity. Interestingly, FA cells were unable to form RMN foci in response to either ICL inducer. Analysis by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and single-cell gel electrophoresis of MMC-treated cells showed that FA cells from complementation group C (FA-C cells, defective in the FANCC gene) form double-strand breaks and unhook MMC-induced ICL similarly to FANCC wild-type cells. These observations imply that the absence of RMN assembly in FA-C cells is not simply due to the absence of DNA ends produced as intermediates of ICL processing, and indicates a direct role for FANCC in RMN focus assembly in response to ICL inducers. Moreover, we show that the formation of foci, including BRCA1 and/or RAD51 proteins, is significantly delayed in FA cells. These alterations in the assembly of DNA-repair proteins in FA provide an interpretation for the DNA-damage processing anomalies observed in FA cells and for the genetic instability and the cancer predisposition of the syndrome.
PMID: 12354779 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]