Premature loss of sister chromatid cohesion at metaphase is a diagnostic marker for different cohesinopathies. Here, we report that metaphase spreads of many cancer cell lines also show premature loss of sister chromatid cohesion. Cohesion loss occurs independently of mutations in cohesion factors including SA2, a cohesin subunit frequently inactivated in cancer. In untransformed cells, induction of DNA replication stress by activation of oncogenes or inhibition of DNA replication is sufficient to trigger sister chromatid cohesion loss. Importantly, cell growth under conditions of replication stress requires the cohesin remover WAPL. WAPL promotes rapid RAD51-dependent repair and restart of broken replication forks. We propose that active removal of cohesin allows cancer cells to overcome DNA replication stress. This leads to oncogene-induced cohesion loss from newly synthesized sister chromatids that may contribute to genomic instability and likely represents a targetable cancer cell vulnerability.
Keywords: DNA double strand breaks; DNA repair; DNA replication stress; KRAS; RAD51; STAG2; WAPL; cohesinopathies; oncogene-induced cohesion loss; sister chromatid cohesion.
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