DNA repair in response to anthracycline–DNA adducts: A role for both homologous recombination and nucleotide excision repair Academic Article uri icon


  • Doxorubicin, a widely used anthracycline anticancer agent, acts as a topoisomerase II poison but can also form formaldehyde-mediated DNA adducts. This has led to the development of doxorubicin derivatives such as doxoform, which can readily form adducts with DNA. This work aimed to determine which DNA repair pathways are involved in the recognition and possible repair of anthracycline-DNA adducts. Cell lines lacking functional proteins involved in each of the five main repair pathways, mismatch repair (MMR), base excision repair (BER), nucleotide excision repair (NER), homologous recombination (HR) and non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) were examined for sensitivity to various anthracycline adduct-forming treatments. The treatments used were doxorubicin, barminomycin (a model adduct-forming anthracycline) and doxoform (a doxorubicin-formaldehyde conjugate). Cells with deficiencies in MMR, BER and NHEJ were equally sensitive to adduct-forming treatments compared to wild type cells and therefore these pathways are unlikely to play a role in the repair of these adducts. Some cells with deficiencies in the NER pathway (specifically, those lacking functional XPB, XPD and XPG), displayed tolerance to adducts induced by both barminomycin and doxoform and also exhibited a decreased level of apoptosis in response to adduct-forming treatments. Conversely, two HR deficient cell lines were shown to be more sensitive to barminomycin and doxoform than HR proficient cells, indicating that this pathway is also involved in the repair response to anthracycline-DNA adducts. These results suggest an unusual damage response pathway to anthracycline adducts involving both NER and HR that could be used to optimise cancer therapy for tumours with either high levels of NER or defective HR. Tumours with either of these characteristics would be predicted to respond particularly well to anthracycline-DNA adduct-forming treatments.

publication date

  • February 2008