WRN helicase safeguards deprotected replication forks in BRCA2-mutated cancer cells

Arindam Datta, Kajal Biswas, Joshua A. Sommers, Haley Thompson, Sanket Awate, Claudia M. Nicolae, Tanay Thakar, George Lucian Moldovan, Robert H. Shoemaker, Shyam K. Sharan, Robert M. Brosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The tumor suppressor BRCA2 protects stalled forks from degradation to maintain genome stability. However, the molecular mechanism(s) whereby unprotected forks are stabilized remains to be fully characterized. Here, we demonstrate that WRN helicase ensures efficient restart and limits excessive degradation of stalled forks in BRCA2-deficient cancer cells. In vitro, WRN ATPase/helicase catalyzes fork restoration and curtails MRE11 nuclease activity on regressed forks. We show that WRN helicase inhibitor traps WRN on chromatin leading to rapid fork stalling and nucleolytic degradation of unprotected forks by MRE11, resulting in MUS81-dependent double-strand breaks, elevated non-homologous end-joining and chromosomal instability. WRN helicase inhibition reduces viability of BRCA2-deficient cells and potentiates cytotoxicity of a poly (ADP)ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitor. Furthermore, BRCA2-deficient xenograft tumors in mice exhibited increased DNA damage and growth inhibition when treated with WRN helicase inhibitor. This work provides mechanistic insight into stalled fork stabilization by WRN helicase when BRCA2 is deficient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6561
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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