BRCA1 Functions as a Differential Modulator of Chemotherapy-induced Apoptosis

J. O'Brien, Richard Kennedy, Paul Mullan, P.M. Gilmore, M. Carty, Patrick Johnston, Paul Harkin

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383 Citations (Scopus)


We have evaluated the role played by BRCA1 in mediating the phenotypic response to a range of chemotherapeutic agents commonly used in cancer treatment. Here we provide evidence that BRCA1 functions as a differential mediator of chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. Specifically, we demonstrate that BRCA1 mediates sensitivity to apoptosis induced by antimicrotubule agents but conversely induces resistance to DNA-damaging agents. These data are supported by a variety of experimental models including cells with inducible expression of BRCA1, siRNA-mediated inactivation of endogenous BRCA1, and reconstitution of BRCA1-deficient cells with wild-type BRCA1. Most notably we demonstrate that BRCA1 induces a 10–1000-fold increase in resistance to a range of DNA-damaging agents, in particular those that give rise to double-strand breaks such as etoposide or bleomycin. In contrast, BRCA1 induces a >1000-fold increase in sensitivity to the spindle poisons, paclitaxel and vinorelbine. Fluorescence-activated cell sorter analysis demonstrated that BRCA1 mediates G2/M arrest in response to both antimicrotubule and DNA-damaging agents. However, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase and caspase-3 cleavage assays indicate that the differential effect mediated by BRCA1 in response to these agents occurs through the inhibition or induction of apoptosis. Therefore, our data suggest that BRCA1 acts as a differential modulator of apoptosis depending on the nature of the cellular insult.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6221-6228
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Research
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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