A Functional Analysis of the Unclassified Pro2767Ser BRCA2 Variant Reveals Its Potential Pathogenicity that Acts by Hampering DNA Binding and Homology-Mediated DNA Repair

Cancers (Basel). 2019 Sep 28;11(10):1454. doi: 10.3390/cancers11101454.


BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the genes most frequently associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC). They are crucial for the maintenance of genome stability, particularly in the homologous recombination-mediated repair pathway of DNA double-strand breaks (HR-DSBR). Widespread BRCA1/2 next-generation sequencing (NGS) screening has revealed numerous variants of uncertain significance. Assessing the clinical significance of these variants is challenging, particularly regarding the clinical management of patients. Here, we report the functional characterization of the unclassified BRCA2 c.8299C > T variant, identified in a young breast cancer patient during BRCA1/2 NGS screening. This variant causes the change of Proline 2767 to Serine in the DNA binding domain (DBD) of the BRCA2 protein, necessary for the loading of RAD51 on ssDNA during the HR-DSBR. Our in silico analysis and 3D-structure modeling predicted that the p.Pro2767Ser substitution is likely to alter the BRCA2 DBD structure and function. Therefore, to evaluate the functional impact of the p.Pro2767Ser variant, we used a minigene encoding a truncated protein that contains the BRCA2 DBD and the nearby nuclear localization sequence. We found that the ectopically expressed truncated protein carrying the normal DBD, which retains the DNA binding function and lacks the central RAD51 binding domain, interferes with endogenous wild-type BRCA2 mediator functions in the HR-DSBR. We also demonstrated that the BRCA2 Pro2767Ser DBD is unable to compete with endogenous BRCA2 DNA binding, thereby suggesting that the p.Pro2767Ser substitution in the full-length protein causes the functional loss of BRCA2. Consequently, our data suggest that the p.Pro2767Ser variant should be considered pathogenic, thus supporting a revision of the ClinVar interpretation. Moreover, our experimental strategy could be a valid method with which to preliminarily evaluate the pathogenicity of the unclassified BRCA2 germline variants in the DBD and their risk of predisposing to HBOC.

Keywords: BRCA2; DNA damage repair; VUS classification; breast cancer; cancer genomics; mutation; variant of uncertain significance (VUS).