DNA interstrand crosslinkers, a chemically diverse group of compounds which also induce alkylation of bases and DNA intrastrand crosslinks, are extensively utilized for cancer therapy. Understanding the cellular response to DNA damage induced by these agents is critical for more effective utilization of these compounds and for the identification of novel therapeutic targets. Importantly, the repair of DNA interstrand crosslinks (ICLs) involves many distinct DNA repair pathways, including nucleotide excision repair, translesion synthesis (TLS), and homologous recombination (HR). Additionally, proteins implicated in the pathophysiology of the multigenic disease Fanconi anemia (FA) have a role in the repair of ICLs that is not well understood. Cells from FA patients are hypersensitive to agents that induce ICLs, therefore FA proteins are potentially novel therapeutic targets. Here we will review current research directed at identifying FA genes and understanding the function of FA proteins in DNA damage responses. We will also examine interactions of FA proteins with other repair proteins and pathways, including signaling networks, which are potentially involved in ICL repair. Potential approaches to the modulation of FA protein function to enhance therapeutic outcome will be discussed. Also, mutation of many genes that encode proteins involved in ICL repair, including FA genes, increases susceptibility to cancer. A better understanding of these pathways is therefore critical for the design of individualized therapies tailored to the genetic profile of a particular malignancy. For this purpose, we will also review evidence for the association of mutation of FA genes with cancer in non-FA patients.
Keywords: Fanconi anemia, DNA interstrand crosslinks, homologous recombination, DNA repair, DNA damage responses, chemotherapy, bifunctional alkylating agents, platinum compounds
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