GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Cancer Biology


Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology

First Thesis Advisor

Dr. Sharon Cantor


Basic-Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors, DNA Repair Enzymes, Fanconi Anemia, Fanconi Anemia Complementation Group Proteins, Colorectal Neoplasms, Hereditary Nonpolyposis, DNA Mismatch Repair


The DNA damage response (DDR) pathway is a complicated network of interacting proteins that function to sense and remove DNA damage. Upon exposure to DNA damage, a signaling cascade is generated. The damage is either removed, restoring the original genetic sequence, or apoptosis is activated. In the absence of DDR, cells are unable to effectively process DNA damage. Unprocessed DNA damage can lead to chromosomal changes, gene mutations, and malignant transformation. Thus, the proteins involved in DDR are critical for maintaining genomic stability.

One essential DDR protein is the BRCA1 Associated C-terminal Helicase, BACH1. BACH1 was initially identified through its direct association with the BRCT domain of the Breast Cancer Associated Gene, BRCA1. Similar to BRCA1, germline mutations in BACH1were identified in patients with early onset breast cancer. Interestingly, the disease-associated mutations in BACH1 were shown to have altered helicase activity in vitro, providing a direct link between BACH1 helicase activity and disease development. The correlation between BACH1 and cancer predisposition was further confirmed by the identification of BACH1 as the cancer syndrome Fanconi anemia (FA) gene product, FANCJ. Similar to other FA proteins, suppression of FANCJ leads to decreased homologous recombination, enhanced sensitivity to DNA interstrand crosslinking (ICL) agents, and chromosomal instability.

In an effort to further understand the function of FANCJ in DDR, FANCJ was shown to directly associate with the mismatch repair (MMR) protein MLH1. This interaction is facilitated by lysines 141 and 142 within the helicase domain of FANCJ. Importantly, the FANCJ/MLH1 interaction is critical for ICL repair. Furthermore, in an attempt to dissect the binding site of FANCJ on MLH1, we discovered an HNPCC associated MLH1 mutation (L607H) that has intact mismatch repair, but lacks FANCJ interaction. In contrast to the MLH1 interaction, the FANCJ/BRCA1 interaction was not required for correcting the cellular defects in FANCJ null cells. Thus, in an effort to understand the functional significance of the FANCJ/BRCA1 interaction, we discovered that FANCJ promotes Pol η dependent translesion synthesis (TLS) bypass when uncoupled from BRCA1. In this thesis, we provide evidence suggesting that FANCJ and MLH1 are functionally linked and that the interaction of these proteins is critical for repair choice.



Rights and Permissions

Copyright is held by the author, with all rights reserved.