BRCA1 does not paint the inactive X to localize XIST RNA but may contribute to broad changes in cancer that impact XIST and Xi heterochromatin

Student Author(s)

Gayle Pageau

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Cell Biology; Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, MD/PhD Program

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Medical Subject Headings

BRCA1 Protein; Breast Neoplasms; Cell Line; Cell Line, Tumor; Chromosomes, Human, X; Female; Heterochromatin; Humans; In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence; RNA Interference; RNA, Untranslated; X Chromosome Inactivation


The BRCA1 tumor suppressor involved in breast and ovarian cancer is linked to several fundamental cell regulatory processes. Recently, it was reported that BRCA1 supports localization of XIST RNA to the inactive X chromosome (Xi) in women. The apparent cytological overlap between BRCA1 and XIST RNA across the Xi raised the possibility a direct role of BRCA1 in localizing XIST. We report here that BRCA1 does not paint the Xi or XIST territory, as do markers of Xi facultative heterochromatin. A smaller BRCA1 accumulation abuts Xi, although this is not exclusive to Xi. In BRCA1 depleted normal and tumor cells, or BRCA1 reconstituted cells, BRCA1 status does not closely correlate with XIST localization, however in a BRCA1 inducible system over-expression correlated strongly with enhanced XIST expression. We confirm frequent loss of an Xi in tumor cells. In addition to mitotic loss of Xi, we find XIST RNA expression or localization frequently become compromised in cultured breast cancer cells, suggesting Xi heterochromatin may not be fully maintained. We demonstrate that complex epigenetic differences between tumor cell subpopulations can have striking effects on XIST transcription, accumulation, and localization, but this does not strictly correlate with BRCA1. Although BRCA1 can have indirect effects that impact XIST, our results do not indicate a direct and specific role in XIST RNA regulation. Rather, regulatory factors such as BRCA1 that have broad effects on chromatin or gene regulation can impact XIST RNA and the Xi. We provide preliminary evidence that this may occur as part of a wider failure of heterochromatin maintenance in some cancers.

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Citation: J Cell Biochem. 2007 Mar 1;100(4):835-50. Link to article on publisher's site

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