RAD51, a key factor in homology-directed repair (HDR), has long been considered an attractive target for cancer therapy, but few specific inhibitors have been found. A cell-penetrating, anti-DNA, lupus autoantibody, 3E10, was previously shown to inhibit HDR, sensitize tumors to radiation, and mediate synthetic lethal killing of BRCA2-deficient cancer cells, effects that were initially attributed to its affinity for DNA. However, as the molecular basis for its ability to inhibit DNA repair, we report that 3E10 directly binds to the N-terminus of RAD51, sequesters RAD51 in the cytoplasm, and impedes RAD51 binding to DNA. Further, we generate separation-of-function mutations in the complementarity-determining regions of 3E10 revealing that inhibition of HDR tracks with binding to RAD51 but not to DNA, whereas cell penetration is linked to DNA binding. The consequences of these mutations on putative 3E10 interactions with RAD51 and DNA are correlated with in silico molecular modeling. Taken together, the results identify 3E10 as a novel inhibitor of RAD51 by direct binding, accounting for its ability to suppress HDR and providing the molecular basis to guide pre-clinical development of 3E10 as an anti-cancer agent.
© The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.