The DNA repair helicase RECQ1 has a checkpoint-dependent role in mediating DNA damage responses induced by gemcitabine

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The response of cancer cells to therapeutic drugs that cause DNA damage depends on genes playing a role in DNA repair. RecQ-like helicase 1 (RECQ1), a DNA repair helicase, is critical for genome stability, and loss-of-function mutations in the RECQ1 gene are associated with increased susceptibility to breast cancer. In this study, using a CRISPR/Cas9-edited cell-based model, we show that the genetic or functional loss of RECQ1 sensitizes MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells to gemcitabine, a nucleoside analog used in chemotherapy for triple-negative breast cancer. RECQ1 loss led to defective ATR Ser/Thr kinase (ATR)/checkpoint kinase 1 (ChK1) activation and greater DNA damage accumulation in response to gemcitabine treatment. Dual deficiency of MUS81 structure-specific endonuclease subunit (MUS81) and RECQ1 increased gemcitabine-induced, replication-associated DNA double-stranded breaks. Consistent with defective checkpoint activation, a ChK1 inhibitor further sensitized RECQ1-deficient cells to gemcitabine and increased cell death. Our results reveal an important role for RECQ1 in controlling cell cycle checkpoint activation in response to gemcitabine-induced replication stress.

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