DNA Double-Strand Break Repair : Molecular Characterization of Classical and Alternative Nonhomologous End Joining in Mitochondrial and Cell-free Extracts
Kumar, Tadi Satish
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Maintenance of genomic integrity and stability is of prime importance for the survival of an organism. Upon exposure to different damaging agents, DNA acquires various lesions such as base modifications, single-strand breaks (SSBs), and double-strand breaks (DSBs). Organisms have evolved specific repair pathways in order to efficiently correct such DNA damages. Among various types of DNA damages, DSBs are the most serious when present inside cells. Unrepaired or misrepaired DSBs account for some of the genetic instabilities that lead to secondary chromosomal rearrangements, such as deletions, inversions, and translocations and consequently to cancer predisposition. Nonhomologous DNA end joining (NHEJ) is one of the major DSB repair pathways in higher organisms. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) deletions identified in humans are flanked by short directly-repeated sequences, however, the mechanism by which these deletions arise are unknown. mtDNA deletions are associated with various types of mitochondrial disorders related to cancer, aging, diabetes, deafness, neurodegenerative disorders, sporadic and inherited diseases. Compared to nuclear DNA (nDNA), mtDNA is highly exposed to oxidative stress due to its proximity to the respiratory chain and the lack of protective histones. DSBs generated by reactive oxygen species, replication stalling or radiation represents a highly dangerous form of damage to both nDNA and mtDNA. However, the repair of DSBs in mitochondria and the proteins involved in this repair are still elusive. Animals deficient for any one of the known Classical-NHEJ factors are immunodeficient. However, DSB repair (DSBR) is not eliminated entirely in these animals suggesting evidence of alternative mechanism, ‘alternative NHEJ’ (A-NHEJ/A-EJ). Several lines of evidence also suggest that alternative and less well-defined backup NHEJ (B-NHEJ) pathways play an important role in physiological and pathological DSBR. We studied NHEJ in different tissue mitochondrial protein extracts using oligomeric DNA substrates which mimics various endogenous DSBs. Results showed A-EJ, as the predominant pathway in mitochondria. Interestingly, immunoprecipitation (IP) studies and specific inhibitor assays suggested, mitochondrial end joining (EJ) was dependent on A-EJ proteins and independent of C-NHEJ proteins. Further, colocalization studies showed A-EJ proteins localize into mitochondria in HeLa cells. More importantly knockdown experiments showed the involvement of DNA LIGASE III in mitochondrial A-EJ. These observations highlight the central role of A-EJ in maintenance of the mammalian mitochondrial genome. By using oligomeric DNA substrates mimicking various endogenous DSBs, NHEJ in different cancer cell lines were studied. We found that the efficiency of NHEJ varies among cancer cells; however, there was no remarkable difference in the mechanism and expression of NHEJ proteins. Interestingly, cancer cells with lower levels of BCL2 possessed efficient NHEJ and vice versa. Removal of BCL2 by immunoprecipitation and protein fractionation using size exclusion column chromatography showed elevated levels of EJ. Most importantly, the overexpression of BCL2 in vivo or the addition of purified BCL2 in vitro led to the downregulation of NHEJ in cancer cells. Further, we found that BCL2 interacts with KU proteins both in vitro and in vivo using immunoprecipitation and immunofluorescence, respectively. Hence, NHEJ in cancer cells is negatively regulated by the anti-apoptotic protein, BCL2, and this may contribute towards increased chromosomal abnormalities in cancer. In summary, our study showed that the efficiency of EJ in cancers could be regulated by the antiapoptotic protein BCL2. However, it may not affect the mechanistic aspect of EJ. BCL2 instead may interfere with EJ by sequestering KU and preventing it from binding to DNA ends. This may help in better understanding towards increased chromosomal abnormalities in cancer. Study of mitochondrial DSBR in mammalian system highlights the central role of microhomology-mediated A-EJ in the maintenance of the mammalian mitochondrial genome and this knowledge will helpful for the development of future therapeutic strategies against variety of mitochondria associated diseases.
- Biochemistry (BC) 
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