The BRCA1 tumor suppressor gene is expressed in all mammalian cells. Within these cells, the BRCA1 protein product interacts with several seemingly distinct nuclear complexes. Proteins within these complexes are potential targets for the E3-ubiquitin ligase activity associated with BRCA1:BARD1 complexes. Recent breakthroughs have centered on elucidating critical DNA repair and chromatin-remodeling functions associated with BRCA1 activity. During both DNA replication and DNA repair, BRCA1 appears to serve both adaptor and enzymatic functions. Roles include transient physical recruitment of NBS1, γH2AX, FANCD2 and other proteins in specific repair associated complexes, and enzymatic activity as an E3-ubiquitin ligase against a subset of these proteins. BRCA1 has also been implicated as a regulator of transcription. It is in this second capacity that progress has been much more difficult to assess. In particular, unambiguous adaptor and enzymatic functions have yet to be demonstrated in transcriptional machinery. Addressing the critical gap in our understanding of enzymatic targets of BRCA1 will be required for significant future progress in this field. The following review puts forward a model for BRCA1 interactions with the transcriptional complex in undamaged cells, and a potential mechanism for substrate switching between transcription and DNA-repair complexes following exposure of cells to proliferative or genotoxic stress. This model incorporates recent evidence that BRCA1 interacts predominantly with hyper-phosphorylated, enzymatically active, RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) in undamaged cells. The model proposes that BRCA1 binds processive RNA polymerase as part of a genome surveillance function, upstream of critical roles in DNA repair.
- BRCA1-associated surveillance (BASC)
- BRCA1-associated transcriptional (BAT) complex
- RNA polymerase II (RNAPII)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine
- Cancer Research