Genes mutated in patients with Fanconi anemia (FA) interact with the DNA repair genes BRCA1 and BRCA2/FANCD1 to suppress tumorigenesis, but the molecular functions ascribed to them cannot fully explain all of their cellular roles. Here, we show a repair-independent requirement for FA genes, including FANCD2, and BRCA1 in protecting stalled replication forks from degradation. Fork protection is surprisingly rescued in FANCD2-deficient cells by elevated RAD51 levels or stabilized RAD51 filaments. Moreover, FANCD2-mediated fork protection is epistatic with RAD51 functions, revealing an unanticipated fork protection pathway that connects FA genes to RAD51 and the BRCA1/2 breast cancer suppressors. Collective results imply a unified molecular mechanism for repair-independent functions of FA, RAD51, and BRCA1/2 proteins in preventing genomic instability and suppressing tumorigenesis.
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