Open Access
BRCA1 in cancer, cell cycle and genomic stability
Meena Jhanwar-Uniyal1
Institute for Cancer Prevention, American Health Foundation Cancer Prevention Center, Valhalla, New York 10595, USA.
DOI: 10.2741/1131 Volume 8 Issue 6, pp.1107-1117
Published: 01 September 2003
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cell cycle checkpoint control)

The BRCA1 gene was isolated in 1994; germline mutations of this gene are known to confer susceptibility to breast and ovarian cancer in high-risk families. Since its discovery, several mutations have been identified in this gene; these are scattered throughout the gene, and include insertion and deletion frameshifts, base substitutions, and inferred regulatory mutations. It role in the pathogenesis of breast cancer, which accounts for almost 95%, although unproven to date, cannot be ruled out. The functional inactivation of both copies of this gene in sporadic tumor cells does not follow the traditional mode: the loss of function in BRCA1 is not accompanied by underlying mutation of the gene in tumor cells with loss of heterozygosity for the BRCA1 gene. Several studies now suggest that an alternate mechanism of inactivation, involving promoter hypermethylation that results in reduced expression of the gene, may be common to a significant proportion of sporadic breast and ovarian cancers. BRCA1 as a tumor suppressor plays an important role in maintaining genomic stability. BRCA1 has the ability to interact with numerous proteins and to form complexes that are involved in recognizing and subsequently repairing DNA. BRCA1 contains several functional domains that directly or indirectly interact with a variety of proteins via protein-protein interaction; these include tumor suppressors (BRCA2, p53, Rb and ATM), oncogenes (c-Myc, casein kinase II and E2F), DNA damage repair proteins (RAD50 and RAD51), cell cycle regulators (cyclins and cyclin dependent kinases), transcriptional activators and repressors (RNA polymerase II, RHA, histone deacetylase complex and CtIP), DNA damage-sensing complex and mismatch repair proteins (BRCA1- Associated Surveillance Complex; BASC) and signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) among others Formation of foci containing BRCA1 by inherited mutations, or epigenetic mechanisms (promoter methylation) in sporadic cancers leads to a loss of DNA repair ability, disrupts the potential to form complexes with other proteins that are crucial for DNA repair pathways. Thus, BRCA1 plays a significant role in maintaining genomic stability and serves as a tumor suppressor in breast cancer tumorigenesis.

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Meena Jhanwar-Uniyal. BRCA1 in cancer, cell cycle and genomic stability. Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark. 2003. 8(6); 1107-1117.