Roles for MDC1 in cancer development and treatment

DNA Repair (Amst). 2020 Nov;95:102948. doi: 10.1016/j.dnarep.2020.102948. Epub 2020 Aug 11.


The DNA damage response (DDR) is necessary to maintain genome integrity and prevent the accumulation of oncogenic mutations. Consequently, proteins involved in the DDR often serve as tumor suppressors, carrying out the crucial task of keeping DNA fidelity intact. Mediator of DNA damage checkpoint 1 (MDC1) is a scaffold protein involved in the early steps of the DDR. MDC1 interacts directly with γ-H2AX, the phosphorylated form of H2AX, a commonly used marker for DNA damage. It then propagates the phosphorylation of H2AX by recruiting ATM kinase. While the function of MDC1 in the DDR has been reviewed previously, its role in cancer has not been reviewed, and numerous studies have recently identified a link between MDC1 and carcinogenesis. This includes MDC1 functioning as a tumor suppressor, with its loss serving as a biomarker for cancer and contributor to drug sensitivity. Studies also indicate that MDC1 operates outside of its traditional role in DDR, and functions as a co-regulator of nuclear receptor transcriptional activity, and that mutations in MDC1 are present in tumors and can also cause germline predisposition to cancer. This review will discuss reports that link MDC1 to cancer and identify MDC1 as an important player in tumor formation, progression, and treatment. We also discuss mechanisms by which MDC1 levels are regulated and how this contributes to tumor formation.

Keywords: Cancer; DNA damage response; DNA damaging agents; MDC1; Transcriptional co-regulator; γ-H2AX.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • MDC1 protein, human