DNA interstrand crosslinks (ICL) present a major threat to cell viability and genome integrity. In eukaryotic cells, the ICLs have been suggested to be repaired by a complex process involving Xpf/Ercc1-mediated endonucleolytic incision and homologous recombination (HR). However, the entire feature of the ICL tolerating mechanism is still poorly understood. Here we studied chromosome aberrations (CA) and sister chromatid exchanges (SCE) by the use of the crosslinking agent mitomycin C (MMC), in chicken DT40 cells with the HR genes disrupted by targeted replacement. The disruption of the Rad54, Rad51B, Rad51C, Rad51D, Xrcc2 and Xrcc3 genes resulted in a dramatic reduction of spontaneous and MMC-induced SCEs. Interestingly, while HR-deficient cells were hypersensitive to cell killing by MMC, MMC-induced CAs were also suppressed in the HR-deficient cells except for Rad51D-, Xrcc2- and Xrcc3-deficient cells. These observations indicate that DNA double strand breaks (DSB) at stalled replication forks and those arising as repair intermediates present strong signals to cell death but can be tolerated by the HR repair pathway, where Rad54, Rad51B and Rad51C have an initiative role and repair can be completed by their paralogs Rad51D, Xrcc2 and Xrcc3. The impairment of the HR pathway, which otherwise leads to cell death, may be somewhat substituted by an alternative mechanism such as the Mre11/Rad50/Nbs1 pathway, resulting in reduced frequencies of SCEs and CAs.
Copyright 2003 S. Karger AG, Basel