Subcellular localization of the APOBEC3 proteins during mitosis and implications for genomic DNA deamination

Cell Cycle. 2013 Mar 1;12(5):762-72. doi: 10.4161/cc.23713. Epub 2013 Feb 6.


Humans have seven APOBEC3 DNA cytosine deaminases. The activity of these enzymes allows them to restrict a variety of retroviruses and retrotransposons, but may also cause pro-mutagenic genomic uracil lesions. During interphase the APOBEC3 proteins have different subcellular localizations: cell-wide, cytoplasmic or nuclear. This implies that only a subset of APOBEC3s have contact with nuclear DNA. However, during mitosis, the nuclear envelope breaks down and cytoplasmic proteins may enter what was formerly a privileged zone. To address the hypothesis that all APOBEC3 proteins have access to genomic DNA, we analyzed the localization of the APOBEC3 proteins during mitosis. We show that APOBEC3A, APOBEC3C and APOBEC3H are excluded from condensed chromosomes, but become cell-wide during telophase. However, APOBEC3B, APOBEC3D, APOBEC3F and APOBEC3G are excluded from chromatin throughout mitosis. After mitosis, APOBEC3B becomes nuclear, and APOBEC3D, APOBEC3F and APOBEC3G become cytoplasmic. Both structural motifs as well as size may be factors in regulating chromatin exclusion. Deaminase activity was not dependent on cell cycle phase. We also analyzed APOBEC3-induced cell cycle perturbations as a measure of each enzyme's capacity to inflict genomic DNA damage. AID, APOBEC3A and APOBEC3B altered the cell cycle profile, and, unexpectedly, APOBEC3D also caused changes. We conclude that several APOBEC3 family members have access to the nuclear compartment and can impede the cell cycle, most likely through DNA deamination and the ensuing DNA damage response. Such genomic damage may contribute to carcinogenesis, as demonstrated by AID in B cell cancers and, recently, APOBEC3B in breast cancers.

Keywords: APOBEC3; DNA cytosine deamination; cancer; cell cycle; mitosis; subcellular localization; uracil.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Chromosomes, Human / metabolism
  • Cytosine Deaminase / chemistry
  • Cytosine Deaminase / metabolism*
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Deamination / genetics
  • Genome, Human / genetics*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Interphase / genetics
  • Mitosis*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Protein Transport / genetics
  • S Phase / genetics
  • Subcellular Fractions / enzymology
  • Telophase / genetics
  • Transfection


  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • DNA
  • Cytosine Deaminase