Degree of genomic instability closely correlates with poor prognosis, drug resistance as well as poor survival across human cancer of different origins. This study assessed the relationship between DNA damage response (DDR) and chromosome instability in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). We investigated DDR signaling in HCC cells by analyzing DNA damage-dependent redistribution of major DDR proteins to damaged chromatin using immunofluorescence microscopy and Western blotting experimentations. We also performed gene conversion and metaphase analyses to address whether dysregulated DDR may bear any biological significance during hepatocarcinogenesis. Accordingly, we found that HCC cell lines suffered from elevated spontaneous DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). In addition, analyses of HCC metaphases revealed marked aneuploidy and frequent sister chromatid exchanges when compared to immortalized hepatocytes, the latter of which were further induced following camptothecin-induced DSBs. We propose that genomic instability in HCC may be caused by erroneous DNA repair in a desperate attempt to mend DSBs for cell survival and that such preemptive measures inadvertently foster chromosome instability and thus complex genomic rearrangements.
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