The human genome is under constant attack by endogenous and environmental DNA damaging agents. To assess the biological significance of exposure to environmental DNA damaging agents, it is necessary to understand the details of the complex response to DNA damage. Much less is known about the impact of environmental DNA damaging agents on the mitochondrial genome compared with the nuclear genome. In vertebrates, nuclear and mitochondrial forms of DNA ligase III? (LigIII?) are generated by alternative translation initiation. Most published studies have focused on the nuclear LigIII?/XRCC1 complex and the role of XRCC1 as a scaffolding factor that co-ordinates the activities of multiple repair factors. However, while the end processing factors PNKP, Tdp1 and aprataxin are all present in mitochondria, XRCC1 is not. We have found that LigIII? and Tdp1 form a stable complex when co-expressed in insect cells.
In Aim 1, we will delineate the mechanisms underlying the participation of LigIII? in mitochondrial DNA metabolism. It is our working hypothesis that LigIII? and Tdp1 form the core complex that co-ordinates the repair of DNA single- strand breaks in mitochondria. Preliminary studies with the LigI/III inhibitor L67 have shown that cells with mitochondria are more sensitive to the ligase inhibitor and that this sensitivity is due to inhibition of mitochondrial (mito) LigIII?. Further studies revealed that inhibition of mito LigIII? has markedly different effects in cancer and non-malignant cells. In cancer cells, the ligase inhibitor caused increased mitochondrial superoxide (mito SOX) levels, reduced oxygen consumption, inhibition of autophagy and caspase 1-dependent apoptosis. By contrast, in non-malignant cells, the ligase inhibitor did not cause an increase in mito SOX or reduced oxygen consumption. However, oxidative phosphorylation was uncoupled and the cells became senescent. We hypothesize that non-malignant cells respond to L67-induced mitochondrial dysfunction by uncoupling oxidative phosphorylation and activating autophagy, thereby attenuating production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). In contrast, we hypothesize that cancer cells are unable to reduce mitochondrial ROS generation, resulting in the initiation of a vicious cycle in which rising ROS levels cause increased mitochondrial dysfunction that activates apoptosis.
In Aim 2, we will elucidate the mechanisms underlying the differential effect of inhibiting mito LigIII? on mitochondrial DNA metabolism and oxidative phosphorylation in non-malignant and cancer cells.
In Aim 3, we will characterize the cell death and survival pathways activated in response to mitochondrial dysfunction in non-malignant and cancer cells. The planned studies will provide novel mechanistic insights into the pathways that maintain the mitochondrial genome. This is highly relevant to human health given the evidence linking mutations in the mitochondrial genome with degenerative diseases and ageing. In addition, the proposed studies will provide the framework and rationale for the development of novel therapeutic strategies that selectively target cancer cell mitochondria.

Public Health Relevance

It is well established that genomic instability drives the progression from a normal cell into a cancer cell. Human cells have a complex network of pathways that act together to maintain genome stability. A mechanistic understanding of these pathways will provide fundamental insights into tumor suppression. Genomic instability is a characteristic of tumor cells, indicating that there are differences in the pathways that normally maintain stability. Similarly, it has been known for a long time that energy metabolism is altered in cancer cells. These differences between normal and cancer cells offer an opportunity to develop therapeutic strategies that selectively target cancer cells. In this project, we are testin a novel compound that impacts both cellular metabolism and DNA repair with the long-term goal of developing a novel, effective treatment for cancer.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Mcallister, Kimberly A
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University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Sallmyr, Annahita; Tomkinson, Alan E (2018) Repair of DNA double-strand breaks by mammalian alternative end-joining pathways. J Biol Chem 293:10536-10546
Wiest, Nathaniel E; Tomkinson, Alan E (2017) Optimization of Native and Formaldehyde iPOND Techniques for Use in Suspension Cells. Methods Enzymol 591:1-32
Cannan, Wendy J; Rashid, Ishtiaque; Tomkinson, Alan E et al. (2017) The Human Ligase III?-XRCC1 Protein Complex Performs DNA Nick Repair after Transient Unwrapping of Nucleosomal DNA. J Biol Chem 292:5227-5238
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Sallmyr, Annahita; Matsumoto, Yoshihiro; Roginskaya, Vera et al. (2016) Inhibiting Mitochondrial DNA Ligase III? Activates Caspase 1-Dependent Apoptosis in Cancer Cells. Cancer Res 76:5431-41
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Ghezraoui, Hind; Piganeau, Marion; Renouf, Benjamin et al. (2014) Chromosomal translocations in human cells are generated by canonical nonhomologous end-joining. Mol Cell 55:829-842
Tomkinson, Alan E; Sallmyr, Annahita (2013) Structure and function of the DNA ligases encoded by the mammalian LIG3 gene. Gene 531:150-7
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