Genome Instability and Cancer Predisposition

Team Publications

Year of publication 2020

Åsa Ehlén, Charlotte Martin, Simona Miron, Manon Julien, François-Xavier Theillet, Virginie Ropars, Gaetana Sessa, Romane Beaurepere, Virginie Boucherit, Patricia Duchambon, Ahmed El Marjou, Sophie Zinn-Justin, Aura Carreira (2020 Apr 14)

Proper chromosome alignment depends on BRCA2 phosphorylation by PLK1.

Nature communications : 1819 : DOI : 10.1038/s41467-020-15689-9 Learn more

The BRCA2 tumor suppressor protein is involved in the maintenance of genome integrity through its role in homologous recombination. In mitosis, BRCA2 is phosphorylated by Polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1). Here we describe how this phosphorylation contributes to the control of mitosis. We identify a conserved phosphorylation site at T207 of BRCA2 that constitutes a bona fide docking site for PLK1 and is phosphorylated in mitotic cells. We show that BRCA2 bound to PLK1 forms a complex with the phosphatase PP2A and phosphorylated-BUBR1. Reducing BRCA2 binding to PLK1, as observed in BRCA2 breast cancer variants S206C and T207A, alters the tetrameric complex resulting in unstable kinetochore-microtubule interactions, misaligned chromosomes, faulty chromosome segregation and aneuploidy. We thus reveal a role of BRCA2 in the alignment of chromosomes, distinct from its DNA repair function, with important consequences on chromosome stability. These findings may explain in part the aneuploidy observed in BRCA2-mutated tumors.

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Year of publication 2018

Sandrine M Caputo, Mélanie Léone, Francesca Damiola, Asa Ehlen, Aura Carreira, Pascaline Gaidrat, Alexandra Martins, Rita D Brandão, Ana Peixoto, Ana Vega, Claude Houdayer, Capucine Delnatte, Myriam Bronner, Danièle Muller, Laurent Castera, Marine Guillaud-Bataille, Inge Søkilde, Nancy Uhrhammer, Sophie Demontety, Hélène Tubeuf, Gaïa Castelain, , Uffe Birk Jensen, Ambre Petitalot, Sophie Krieger, Cédrick Lefol, Virginie Moncoutier, Nadia Boutry-Kryza, Henriette Roed Nielsen, Olga Sinilnikova, Dominique Stoppa-Lyonnet, Amanda B Spurdle, Manuel R Teixeira, Florence Coulet, Mads Thomassen, Etienne Rouleau (2018 Apr 3)

Full in-frame exon 3 skipping of BRCA2 confers high risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer.

Oncotarget : 17334-17348 : DOI : 10.18632/oncotarget.24671 Learn more

Germline pathogenic variants in the gene are associated with a cumulative high risk of breast/ovarian cancer. Several variants result in complete loss of the exon-3 at the transcript level. The pathogenicity of these variants and the functional impact of loss of exon 3 have yet to be established. As a collaboration of the COVAR clinical trial group (France), and the ENIGMA consortium for investigating breast cancer gene variants, this study evaluated 8 variants resulting in complete deletion of exon 3. Clinical information for 39 families was gathered from Portugal, France, Denmark and Sweden. Multifactorial likelihood analyses were conducted using information from 293 patients, for 7 out of the 8 variants (including 6 intronic). For all variants combined the likelihood ratio in favor of causality was 4.39*10. These results provide convincing evidence for the pathogenicity of all examined variants that lead to a total exon 3 skipping, and suggest that other variants that result in complete loss of exon 3 at the molecular level could be associated with a high risk of cancer comparable to that associated with classical pathogenic variants in or gene. In addition, our functional study shows, for the first time, that deletion of exon 3 impairs the ability of cells to survive upon Mitomycin-C treatment, supporting lack of function for the altered BRCA2 protein in these cells. Finally, this study demonstrates that any variant leading to expression of only delta-exon 3 will be associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

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Catharina von Nicolai, Åsa Ehlén, Juan S Martinez, Aura Carreira (2018 Apr 1)

Dissecting the Recombination Mediator Activity of BRCA2 Using Biochemical Methods.

Methods in enzymology : 479-511 : DOI : S0076-6879(17)30356-7 Learn more

Homologous recombination (HR) is an essential pathway to restart stalled replication forks, repair spontaneous DNA double-strand breaks, and generate genetic diversity. Together with genetic studies in model organisms, the development of purification protocols and biochemical assays has allowed investigators to begin to understand how the complex machinery of HR functions. At the core of the HR process is the recombination enzyme RecA in bacteria or RAD51 and DMC1 in eukaryotes. The main steps of HR can be reconstituted in vitro and involve: (1) The formation of a ssDNA-RAD51 complex into a helical structure termed the nucleoprotein filament after one DNA strand has been resected at the site of the break. (2) The homologous DNA pairing with an intact copy of the damaged chromatid to form a joint molecule also called displacement loop (D-loop). (3) The exchange of DNA strands and de novo DNA synthesis to restore the damaged/lost DNA. (4) The resolution of joint molecules by nucleolytic cleavage. The human tumor suppressor BRCA2 is a mediator of HR as it actively facilitates the DNA transactions of the recombination proteins RAD51 and DMC1 in a variety of ways: It stabilizes ssDNA-RAD51/DMC1 nucleoprotein filaments. It limits the assembly of RAD51 on dsDNA. It facilitates the replacement of replication protein A by RAD51. The result of these activities is a net increase of DNA strand exchange products as observed in vitro. Here, we describe some of the biochemical assays used to dissect the mediator activities of BRCA2.

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Year of publication 2017

Hermela Shimelis, Romy L S Mesman, Catharina Von Nicolai, Asa Ehlen, Lucia Guidugli, Charlotte Martin, Fabienne Mgr Calleja, Huong Meeks, Emily Hallberg, Jamie Hinton, Jenna Lilyquist, Chunling Hu, Cora M Aalfs, Kristiina Aittomaki, Irene L Andrulis, Hoda Anton-Culver, Volker Arndt, Matthias W Beckmann, Javier J Benitez, Natalia Bogdanova, Stig E Bojesen, Manjeet K Bolla, Anne-Lise Borresen-Dale, Hiltrud Brauch, Paul Brennan, Hermann Brenner, Annegien Broeks, Barbara Brouwers, Thomas Bruning, Barbara Burwinkel, Jenny Chang-Claude, Georgia Chenevix-Trench, Ching-Yu Cheng, Ji-Yeob Choi, J Margriet Collée, Angela Cox, Simon S Cross, Kamila Czene, Hatef Darabi, Joe Dennis, Thilo Dork, Isabel Dos Santos Silva, Alison M Dunning, Peter A Fasching, Jonine D Figueroa, Henrik Flyger, Montserrat Garcia-Closas, Graham G Giles, Gord Glendon, Pascal Guenel, Christopher A Haiman, Per Hall, Ute Hamann, Mikael Hartman, Frans B L Hogervorst, Antoinette Hollestelle, John L Hopper, Hidemi Ito, Anna Jakubowska, Daehee Kang, Veli-Matti Kosma, Vessela Kristensen, Kah-Nyin Lai, Diether Lambrechts, Loic Le Marchand, Jingmei Li, Annika Lindblom, Artitaya Lophatananon, Jan Lubinski, Eva Machackova, Arto Mannermaa, Sara Margolin, Frederik Marme, Keitaro Matsuo, Hui Miao, Kyriaki Michailidou, Roger L Milne, Kenneth Muir, Susan L Neuhausen, Heli Nevanlinna, Janet E Olson, Curtis Olswold, Jan C Oosterwijk, Ana Osorio, Paolo Peterlongo, Julian Peto, Paul D P Pharoah, Katri Pylkäs, Paolo Radice, Muhammad U Rashid, Valerie Rhenius, Anja Rudolph, Suleeporn Sangrajrang, Elinor J Sawyer, Marjanka K Schmidt, Minouk J Schoemaker, Caroline M Seynaeve, Mitul Shah, Chen-Yang Shen, Martha J Shrubsole, Xiao-Ou Shu, Susan L Slager, Melissa C Southey, Daniel O Stram, Anthony J Swerdlow, Soo Hwang Teo, Ian Tomlinson, Diana Torres, Therese Truong, Christi J van Asperen, Lizet E van der Kolk, Qin Wang, Robert Winqvist, Anna H Wu, Jyh-Cherng Yu, Wei Zheng, Ying Zheng, Jennifer Leary, Logan C Walker, Lenka Foretova, Florentia Fostira, Kathleen Claes, Liliana Varesco, Setareh Moghadasi, Douglas F Easton, Amanda B Spurdle, Peter Devilee, Harry Vrieling, Alvaro N Monteiro, David E Goldgar, Aura Carreira, Maaike P G Vreeswijk, Fergus J Couch (2017 Jun 1)

BRCA2 hypomorphic missense variants confer moderate risks of breast cancer.

Cancer research : DOI : 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-16-2568 Learn more

Breast cancer risks conferred by many germline missense variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, often referred to as variants of uncertain significance (VUS), have not been established. In this study, associations between 19 BRCA1 and 33 BRCA2 missense substitution variants and breast cancer risk were investigated through a breast cancer case control study using genotyping data from 38 studies of predominantly European ancestry (41,890 cases and 41,607 controls) and nine studies of Asian ancestry (6,269 cases and 6,624 controls). The BRCA2 c.9104A>C, p.Tyr3035Ser (OR=2.52, p=0.04) and BRCA1 c.5096G>A, p.Arg1699Gln (OR=4.29, p=0.009) variant were associated with moderately increased risks of breast cancer among Europeans, whereas BRCA2 c.7522G>A, p.Gly2508Ser (OR=2.68, p=0.004) and c.8187G>T, p.Lys2729Asn (OR=1.4, p=0.004) were associated with moderate and low risks of breast cancer among Asians. Functional characterization of the BRCA2 variants using four quantitative assays showed reduced BRCA2 activity for p.Tyr3035Ser compared to wildtype. Overall, our results show how BRCA2 missense variants that influence protein function can confer clinically relevant, moderately increased risks of breast cancer, with potential implications for risk management guidelines in women with these specific variants.

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Year of publication 2016

Catharina von Nicolai, Åsa Ehlén, Charlotte Martin, Xiaodong Zhang, Aura Carreira (2016 Sep 15)

A second DNA binding site in human BRCA2 promotes homologous recombination.

Nature communications : 12813 : DOI : 10.1038/ncomms12813 Learn more

BRCA2 tumour-suppressor protein is well known for its role in DNA repair by homologous recombination (HR); assisting the loading of RAD51 recombinase at DNA double-strand breaks. This function is executed by the C-terminal DNA binding domain (CTD) which binds single-stranded (ss)DNA, and the BRC repeats, which bind RAD51 and modulate its assembly onto ssDNA. Paradoxically, analysis of cells resistant to DNA damaging agents missing the CTD restore HR proficiency, suggesting another domain may take over its function. Here, we identify a region in the N terminus of BRCA2 that exhibits DNA binding activity (NTD) and provide evidence for NTD promoting RAD51-mediated HR. A missense variant detected in breast cancer patients located in the NTD impairs HR stimulation on dsDNA/ssDNA junction containing substrates. These findings shed light on the function of the N terminus of BRCA2 and have implications for the evaluation of breast cancer variants.

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Juan S Martinez, Catharina von Nicolai, Taeho Kim, Åsa Ehlén, Alexander V Mazin, Stephen C Kowalczykowski, Aura Carreira (2016 Mar 29)

BRCA2 regulates DMC1-mediated recombination through the BRC repeats.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America : 3515-20 : DOI : 10.1073/pnas.1601691113 Learn more

In somatic cells, BRCA2 is needed for RAD51-mediated homologous recombination. The meiosis-specific DNA strand exchange protein, DMC1, promotes the formation of DNA strand invasion products (joint molecules) between homologous molecules in a fashion similar to RAD51. BRCA2 interacts directly with both human RAD51 and DMC1; in the case of RAD51, this interaction results in stimulation of RAD51-promoted DNA strand exchange. However, for DMC1, little is known regarding the basis and functional consequences of its interaction with BRCA2. Here we report that human DMC1 interacts directly with each of the BRC repeats of BRCA2, albeit most tightly with repeats 1-3 and 6-8. However, BRC1-3 bind with higher affinity to RAD51 than to DMC1, whereas BRC6-8 bind with higher affinity to DMC1, providing potential spatial organization to nascent filament formation. With the exception of BRC4, each BRC repeat stimulates joint molecule formation by DMC1. The basis for this stimulation is an enhancement of DMC1-ssDNA complex formation by the stimulatory BRC repeats. Lastly, we demonstrate that full-length BRCA2 protein stimulates DMC1-mediated DNA strand exchange between RPA-ssDNA complexes and duplex DNA, thus identifying BRCA2 as a mediator of DMC1 recombination function. Collectively, our results suggest unique and specialized functions for the BRC motifs of BRCA2 in promoting homologous recombination in meiotic and mitotic cells.

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Year of publication 2015

Juan S Martinez, Céline Baldeyron, Aura Carreira (2015 Nov 13)

Molding BRCA2 function through its interacting partners.

Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.) : 3389-95 : DOI : 10.1080/15384101.2015.1093702 Learn more

The role of the tumor suppressor BRCA2 has been shaped over 2 decades thanks to the discovery of its protein and nucleic acid partners, biochemical and structural studies of the protein, and the functional evaluation of germline variants identified in breast cancer patients. Yet, the pathogenic and functional effect of many germline mutations in BRCA2 remains undetermined, and the heterogeneity of BRCA2-associated tumors challenges the identification of causative variants that drive tumorigenesis. In this review, we propose an overview of the established and emerging interacting partners and functional pathways attributed to BRCA2, and we speculate on how variants altering these functions may contribute to cancer susceptibility.

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Year of publication 2014

Martin Dutertre, Sarah Lambert, Aura Carreira, Mounira Amor-Guéret, Stéphan Vagner (2014 Mar 1)

DNA damage: RNA-binding proteins protect from near and far.

Trends in biochemical sciences : 141-9 : DOI : 10.1016/j.tibs.2014.01.003 Learn more

Recent work, including large-scale genetic and molecular analyses, identified RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) as major players in the prevention of genome instability. These studies show that RBPs prevent harmful RNA/DNA hybrids and are involved in the DNA damage response (DDR), from DNA repair to cell survival decisions. Indeed, specific RBPs allow the selective regulation of DDR genes at multiple post-transcriptional levels (from pre-mRNA splicing/polyadenylation to mRNA stability/translation) and are directly involved in DNA repair. These multiple activities are mediated by RBP binding to mRNAs, nascent transcripts, noncoding RNAs, and damaged DNA. Finally, because DNA damage modifies RBP localization and binding to different RNA/DNA molecules, we propose that upon DNA damage, RBPs coordinately regulate various aspects of both RNA and DNA metabolism.

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Lucia Guidugli, Aura Carreira, Sandrine M Caputo, Asa Ehlen, Alvaro Galli, Alvaro N A Monteiro, Susan L Neuhausen, Thomas V O Hansen, Fergus J Couch, Maaike P G Vreeswijk, (2014 Feb 1)

Functional assays for analysis of variants of uncertain significance in BRCA2.

Human mutation : 151-64 : DOI : 10.1002/humu.22478 Learn more

Missense variants in the BRCA2 gene are routinely detected during clinical screening for pathogenic mutations in patients with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer. These subtle changes frequently remain of unknown clinical significance because of the lack of genetic information that may help establish a direct correlation with cancer predisposition. Therefore, alternative ways of predicting the pathogenicity of these variants are urgently needed. Since BRCA2 is a protein involved in important cellular mechanisms such as DNA repair, replication, and cell cycle control, functional assays have been developed that exploit these cellular activities to explore the impact of the variants on protein function. In this review, we summarize assays developed and currently utilized for studying missense variants in BRCA2. We specifically depict details of each assay, including variants of uncertain significance analyzed, and describe a validation set of (genetically) proven pathogenic and neutral missense variants to serve as a golden standard for the validation of each assay. Guidelines are proposed to enable implementation of laboratory-based methods to assess the impact of the variant on cancer risk.

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Year of publication 2013

Antony M Carr, Sarah Lambert, Aura Carreira (2013 Nov 29)

Replication stress-induced genome instability: the dark side of replication maintenance by homologous recombination.

Journal of molecular biology : 4733-44 : DOI : 10.1016/j.jmb.2013.04.023 Learn more

Homologous recombination (HR) is an evolutionary-conserved mechanism involved in a subtle balance between genome stability and diversity. HR is a faithful DNA repair pathway and has been largely characterized in the context of double-strand break (DSB) repair. Recently, multiple functions for the HR machinery have been identified at arrested forks. These are evident across different organisms and include replication fork-stabilization and fork-restart functions. Interestingly, a DSB appears not to be a prerequisite for HR-mediated replication maintenance. HR has the ability to rebuild a replisome at inactivated forks, but perhaps surprisingly, the resulting replisome is liable to intrastrand and interstrand switches leading to replication errors. Here, we review our current understanding of the replication maintenance function of HR. The error proneness of these pathways leads us to suggest that the origin of replication-associated genome instability should be re-evaluated.

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Year of publication 2011

Aura Carreira, Stephen C Kowalczykowski (2011 Jun 28)

Two classes of BRC repeats in BRCA2 promote RAD51 nucleoprotein filament function by distinct mechanisms.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America : 10448-53 : DOI : 10.1073/pnas.1106971108 Learn more

The human tumor suppressor protein BRCA2 plays a key role in recombinational DNA repair. BRCA2 recruits RAD51 to sites of DNA damage through interaction with eight conserved motifs of approximately 35 amino acids, the BRC repeats; however, the specific function of each repeat remains unclear. Here, we investigated the function of the individual BRC repeats by systematically analyzing their effects on RAD51 activities. Our results reveal the existence of two categories of BRC repeats that display unique functional characteristics. One group, comprising BRC1, -2, -3, and -4, binds to free RAD51 with high affinity. The second group, comprising BRC5, -6, -7, and -8, binds to free RAD51 with low affinity but binds to the RAD51-ssDNA filament with high affinity. Each member of the first group reduces the ATPase activity of RAD51, whereas none of the BRC repeats of the second group affects this activity. Thus, through different mechanisms, both types of BRC repeats bind to and stabilize the RAD51 nucleoprotein filament on ssDNA. In addition, members of the first group limit binding of RAD51 to duplex DNA, where members of the second group do not. Only the first group enhances DNA strand exchange by RAD51. Our results suggest that the two groups of BRC repeats have differentially evolved to ensure efficient formation of a nascent RAD51 filament on ssDNA by promoting its nucleation and growth, respectively. We propose that the BRC repeats cooperate in a partially redundant but reinforcing manner to ensure a high probability of RAD51 filament formation.

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Year of publication 2010

Ryan B Jensen, Aura Carreira, Stephen C Kowalczykowski (2010 Oct 7)

Purified human BRCA2 stimulates RAD51-mediated recombination.

Nature : 678-83 : DOI : 10.1038/nature09399 Learn more

Mutation of the breast cancer susceptibility gene, BRCA2, leads to breast and ovarian cancers. Mechanistic insight into the functions of human BRCA2 has been limited by the difficulty of isolating this large protein (3,418 amino acids). Here we report the purification of full-length BRCA2 and show that it both binds RAD51 and potentiates recombinational DNA repair by promoting assembly of RAD51 onto single-stranded DNA (ssDNA). BRCA2 acts by targeting RAD51 to ssDNA over double-stranded DNA, enabling RAD51 to displace replication protein-A (RPA) from ssDNA and stabilizing RAD51-ssDNA filaments by blocking ATP hydrolysis. BRCA2 does not anneal ssDNA complexed with RPA, implying it does not directly function in repair processes that involve ssDNA annealing. Our findings show that BRCA2 is a key mediator of homologous recombination, and they provide a molecular basis for understanding how this DNA repair process is disrupted by BRCA2 mutations, which lead to chromosomal instability and cancer.

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Michael G Kemp, Aaron C Mason, Aura Carreira, Joyce T Reardon, Stuart J Haring, Gloria E O Borgstahl, Stephen C Kowalczykowski, Aziz Sancar, Marc S Wold (2010 Feb 12)

An alternative form of replication protein a expressed in normal human tissues supports DNA repair.

The Journal of biological chemistry : 4788-97 : DOI : 10.1074/jbc.M109.079418 Learn more

Replication protein A (RPA) is a heterotrimeric protein complex required for a large number of DNA metabolic processes, including DNA replication and repair. An alternative form of RPA (aRPA) has been described in which the RPA2 subunit (the 32-kDa subunit of RPA and product of the RPA2 gene) of canonical RPA is replaced by a homologous subunit, RPA4. The normal function of aRPA is not known; however, previous studies have shown that it does not support DNA replication in vitro or S-phase progression in vivo. In this work, we show that the RPA4 gene is expressed in normal human tissues and that its expression is decreased in cancerous tissues. To determine whether aRPA plays a role in cellular physiology, we investigated its role in DNA repair. aRPA interacted with both Rad52 and Rad51 and stimulated Rad51 strand exchange. We also showed that, by using a reconstituted reaction, aRPA can support the dual incision/excision reaction of nucleotide excision repair. aRPA is less efficient in nucleotide excision repair than canonical RPA, showing reduced interactions with the repair factor XPA and no stimulation of XPF-ERCC1 endonuclease activity. In contrast, aRPA exhibits higher affinity for damaged DNA than canonical RPA, which may explain its ability to substitute for RPA in the excision step of nucleotide excision repair. Our findings provide the first direct evidence for the function of aRPA in human DNA metabolism and support a model for aRPA functioning in chromosome maintenance functions in nonproliferating cells.

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Year of publication 2009

Aura Carreira, Stephen C Kowalczykowski (2009 Nov 1)

BRCA2: Shining light on the regulation of DNA-binding selectivity by RAD51.

Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.) : 3445-7 : DOI : 10.4161/cc.8.21.9748 Learn more

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Aura Carreira, Jovencio Hilario, Ichiro Amitani, Ronald J Baskin, Mahmud K K Shivji, Ashok R Venkitaraman, Stephen C Kowalczykowski (2009 Mar 20)

The BRC repeats of BRCA2 modulate the DNA-binding selectivity of RAD51.

Cell : 1032-43 : DOI : 10.1016/j.cell.2009.02.019 Learn more

The breast cancer susceptibility protein, BRCA2, is essential for recombinational DNA repair. BRCA2 delivers RAD51 to double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) breaks through interaction with eight conserved, approximately 35 amino acid motifs, the BRC repeats. Here we show that the solitary BRC4 promotes assembly of RAD51 onto single-stranded DNA (ssDNA), but not dsDNA, to stimulate DNA strand exchange. BRC4 acts by blocking ATP hydrolysis and thereby maintaining the active ATP-bound form of the RAD51-ssDNA filament. Single-molecule visualization shows that BRC4 does not disassemble RAD51-dsDNA filaments but rather blocks nucleation of RAD51 onto dsDNA. Furthermore, this behavior is manifested by a domain of BRCA2 comprising all eight BRC repeats. These results establish that the BRC repeats modulate RAD51-DNA interaction in two opposing but functionally reinforcing ways: targeting active RAD51 to ssDNA and prohibiting RAD51 nucleation onto dsDNA. Thus, BRCA2 recruits RAD51 to DNA breaks and, we propose, the BRC repeats regulate DNA-binding selectivity.

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