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Methylating agents are first-line therapeutics for gliomas and malignant melanomas. They attack DNA at various sites, and both O(6)-methylguanine and N-methylated base adducts contribute to the killing response. The mechanism of cellular defense against these agents primarily involves O(6)-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) and base excision repair (BER). Here, we determined whether a key protein involved in DNA double-strand break (DSB) recognition and signaling, nibrin (NBN alias NBS-1), plays a role in the cellular defense against methylating agents. Comparing NBN mutated fibroblasts and lymphoblastoid cells from patients suffering from Nijmegen breakage syndrome, we show that NBN mutants are clearly more sensitive to N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine and temozolomide than the corresponding wild-type cells. Hypersensitivity was due to the induction of both apoptosis and necrosis. The mismatch repair proteins MSH2, MSH6, MLH1, and PMS2 were expressed at a similar level in the cell lines and BER was not affected by NBN mutation. Because MGMT expression abrogated the hypersensitivity of NBN mutated cells, we conclude that O(6)-methylguanine-derived lesions are responsible for triggering the response. Down-regulation of NBN in melanoma cells by small interfering RNA rendered them more sensitive to temozolomide, suggesting that NBN is a novel modulator of temozolomide sensitivity. Because NBN is part of the MRN complex, which recognizes DSBs, the data strongly indicate that MRN is critically involved in DSB processing after O(6)-methylguanine induction. The data provide first evidence that NBN is involved in the cellular defense against O(6)-methylguanine-inducing agents such as temozolomide and identify NBN as a critical target of methylating anticancer drug resistance.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Pharmacol

Publication Date





943 - 951


Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating, Apoptosis, Caspase 7, Cell Cycle Proteins, Cell Line, Transformed, Cell Line, Tumor, DNA Methylation, Dacarbazine, Drug Resistance, Neoplasm, Fibroblasts, Guanine, Homozygote, Humans, Melanoma, Methylnitronitrosoguanidine, Mutagens, Mutation, Necrosis, Nijmegen Breakage Syndrome, Nuclear Proteins, Poly (ADP-Ribose) Polymerase-1, Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases, Temozolomide, Uveal Neoplasms