Germline mutations of the breast cancer 1 (BRCA1) gene are a major cause of familial breast and ovarian cancer. The BRCA1 protein displays E3 ubiquitin ligase activity, and this enzymatic function is thought to be required for tumor suppression. To test this hypothesis, we generated mice that express an enzymatically defective Brca1. We found that this mutant Brca1 prevents tumor formation to the same degree as does wild-type Brca1 in three different genetically engineered mouse (GEM) models of cancer. In contrast, a mutation that ablates phosphoprotein recognition by the BRCA C terminus (BRCT) domains of BRCA1 elicits tumors in each of the three GEM models. Thus, BRCT phosphoprotein recognition, but not the E3 ligase activity, is required for BRCA1 tumor suppression.
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