A transcription-based mechanism for oncogenic β-catenin-induced lethality in BRCA1/2-deficient cells.
Dagg RA., Zonderland G., Lombardi EP., Rossetti GG., Groelly FJ., Barroso S., Tacconi EMC., Wright B., Lockstone H., Aguilera A., Halazonetis TD., Tarsounas M.
BRCA1 or BRCA2 germline mutations predispose to breast, ovarian and other cancers. High-throughput sequencing of tumour genomes revealed that oncogene amplification and BRCA1/2 mutations are mutually exclusive in cancer, however the molecular mechanism underlying this incompatibility remains unknown. Here, we report that activation of β-catenin, an oncogene of the WNT signalling pathway, inhibits proliferation of BRCA1/2-deficient cells. RNA-seq analyses revealed β-catenin-induced discrete transcriptome alterations in BRCA2-deficient cells, including suppression of CDKN1A gene encoding the CDK inhibitor p21. This accelerates G1/S transition, triggering illegitimate origin firing and DNA damage. In addition, β-catenin activation accelerates replication fork progression in BRCA2-deficient cells, which is critically dependent on p21 downregulation. Importantly, we find that upregulated p21 expression is essential for the survival of BRCA2-deficient cells and tumours. Thus, our work demonstrates that β-catenin toxicity in cancer cells with compromised BRCA1/2 function is driven by transcriptional alterations that cause aberrant replication and inflict DNA damage.