Functional variant analyses (FVAs) predict pathogenicity in the BRCA1 DNA double-strand break repair pathway

Johnny Loke, Alexander Pearlman, Kinnari Upadhyay, Lydia Tesfa, Yongzhao Shao, Harry Ostrer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Heritable mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 and other genes in the DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair pathway disrupt binding of the encoded proteins, transport into the nucleus and initiation of homologous recombination, thereby increasing cancer risk [Scully, R., Chen, J., Plug, A., Xiao, Y., Weaver, D., Feunteun, J., Ashley, T. and Livingston, D.M. (1997) Association of BRCA1 with Rad51 in mitotic and meiotic cells. Cell, 88, 265-275, Chen, J., Silver, D.P., Walpita, D., Cantor, S.B., Gazdar, A.F., Tomlinson, G., Couch, F.J., Weber, B.L., Ashley, T., Livingston, D.M. et al. (1998) Stable interaction between the products of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 tumor suppressor genes in mitotic and meiotic cells. Mol. Cell, 2, 317-328]. To meet the challenge of correct classification, flow cytometry-based functional variant analyses (FVAs) were developed to determine whether variants in DSB repair genes disrupted the binding of BRCA1 to BARD1, PALB2, BRCA2 and FANCD2, phosphorylation of p53 or BRCA1 nuclear localization in response to DNA damage caused by diepoxybutane, mitomycin C and bleomycin. Lymphoblastoid cells from individuals with BRCA1 pathogenic mutations, benign variants, and variants of uncertain significance or with known BRCA2, FANCC or NBN mutations were tested. Mutations in BRCA1 decreased nuclear localization of BRCA1 in response to individual or combination drug treatment. Mutations in BRCA1 reduced binding to co-factors, PALB2 and FANCD2 and decreased phosphorylation of p53. Mutations in BRCA2, FANCC and NBN decreased nuclear localization of BRCA1 in response to drug treatment, cofactors binding and p53 phosphorylation. Unsupervised cluster analysis of all and as few as two assays demonstrated two apparent clusters, high-risk BRCA1 mutations and phenocopies and low-risk, fully sequenced controls and variants of uncertain significance (VUS). Thus, two FVA assays distinguish BRCA1 mutations and phenocopies from benign variants and categorize most VUS as benign. Mutations in other DSB repair pathway genes produce molecular phenocopies. FVA assays may represent an adjunct to sequencing for categorizing VUS or may represent a stand-alone measure for assessing breast cancer risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3030-3037
Number of pages8
JournalHuman molecular genetics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Dec 15 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)

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