Untangling the clinicopathological significance of MRE11-RAD50-NBS1 complex in sporadic breast cancers

NPJ Breast Cancer. 2021 Nov 15;7(1):143. doi: 10.1038/s41523-021-00350-5.


The MRE11-RAD50-NBS1 (MRN) complex is critical for genomic stability. Although germline mutations in MRN may increase breast cancer susceptibility, such mutations are extremely rare. Here, we have conducted a comprehensive clinicopathological study of MRN in sporadic breast cancers. We have protein expression profiled for MRN and a panel of DNA repair factors involved in double-strand break repair (BRCA1, BRCA2, ATM, CHK2, ATR, Chk1, pChk1, RAD51, γH2AX, RPA1, RPA2, DNA-PKcs), RECQ DNA helicases (BLM, WRN, RECQ1, RECQL4, RECQ5), nucleotide excision repair (ERCC1) and base excision repair (SMUG1, APE1, FEN1, PARP1, XRCC1, Pol β) in 1650 clinical breast cancers. The prognostic significance of MRE11, RAD50 and NBS1 transcripts and their microRNA regulators (hsa-miR-494 and hsa-miR-99b) were evaluated in large clinical datasets. Expression of MRN components was analysed in The Cancer Genome Atlas breast cancer cohort. We show that low nuclear MRN is linked to aggressive histopathological phenotypes such as high tumour grade, high mitotic index, oestrogen receptor- and high-risk Nottingham Prognostic Index. In univariate analysis, low nuclear MRE11 and low nuclear RAD50 were associated with poor survival. In multivariate analysis, low nuclear RAD50 remained independently linked with adverse clinical outcomes. Low RAD50 transcripts were also linked with reduced survival. In contrast, overexpression of hsa-miR-494 and hsa-miR-99b microRNAs was associated with poor survival. We observed large-scale genome-wide alterations in MRN-deficient tumours contributing to aggressive behaviour. We conclude that MRN status may be a useful tool to stratify tumours for precision medicine strategies.