Illudin S is a natural sesquiterpene drug with strong anti-tumour activity. Inside cells, unstable active metabolites of illudin cause the formation of as yet poorly characterised DNA lesions. In order to identify factors involved in their repair, we have performed a detailed genetic survey of repair-defective mutants for responses to the drug. We show that 90% of illudin's lethal effects in human fibroblasts can be prevented by an active nucleotide excision repair (NER) system. Core NER enzymes XPA, XPF, XPG, and TFIIH are essential for recovery. However, the presence of global NER initiators XPC, HR23A/HR23B and XPE is not required, whereas survival, repair and recovery from transcription inhibition critically depend on CSA, CSB and UVS, the factors specific for transcription-coupled NER. Base excision repair and non-homologous end-joining of DNA breaks do not play a major role in the processing of illudin lesions. However, active RAD18 is required for optimal cell survival, indicating that the lesions also block replication forks, eliciting post-replication-repair-like responses. However, the translesion-polymerase DNA pol eta is not involved. We conclude that illudin-induced lesions are exceptional in that they appear to be ignored by all of the known global repair systems, and can only be repaired when trapped in stalled replication or transcription complexes. We show that the semisynthetic illudin derivative hydroxymethylacylfulvene (HMAF, Irofulven), currently under clinical trial for anti-tumour therapy, acts via the same mechanism.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science B.V.