The DNA damage response (DDR) mediates DNA double strand break (DSB) repair and protects cells from damage induced transformation or death. Cellular DNA is organized into protein DNA complexes (chromatin) in order to control DNA access by proteins and regulated DNA dependent functions. In eukaryotes, there are two major types of chromatin: heterochromatin (gene poor) and euchromatin (gene rich) that are distinguished by specific histone tail modifications and differences in nonhistone chromatin protein constituents. Among nonhistone chromatin proteins, heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) is the best- studied example. In mammals, there are three HP1 isoforms (HP1a, HP1b and HP1g) all structurally characterized by two conserved domains separated by a hinge region: an N-terminal chromodomain (CD) and a C-terminal chromoshadow domain (CSD). We previously demonstrated that overexpression of HP1a or HP1b in human cells increases genomic instability and sensitivity to ionizing radiation (IR)-induced cell killing. Moreover, depletion of Cbx1 (mouse HP1b) in mouse cells increased genomic instability, spontaneous ATM (ataxia-telangiectasia mutated) autophosphorylation, reduced the frequency of IR-induced g-H2AX foci formation, increased IR-induced cell killing and oncogenic transformation. Recent studies by other investigators support our results indicating HP1b has both negative as well as positive effects on DNA DSB repair and suggest that the precise level of functional HP1b is a critical determinant to IR sensitivity. Since most mechanistic details as to how HP1 b interacts with repair associated proteins to modulate DNA DSB repair are unexplored, we will determine how different domains interact with chromatin/repair protein components to regulate DNA DSB repair. We hypothesize that the negative effect of HP1b is mediated through CD domain binding to H3K9me, since deletion of this domain can improve cell survival and the positive effect could be due to HP1b CSD interactions with acetylated histone H4K16 (H4K16ac) a unique histone modification that prevents higher order chromatin packing, which can impede protein access to DNA and with proteins involved in the DDR. Defective DNA damage repair is linked with oncogenic transformation and tumorigenesis, therefore, we will determine the impact of decreased Cbx1 on tumor development in (i) Cbx1+/- mice in the presence and absence of Atm and (ii) Cbx1 conditional knockout mice. These studies will define the mechanism by which HP1b regulates the cellular IR response and tumorigenesis. Our hypothesis-that the non-histone modifying factor HP1b regulates chromatin structure and, through interactions with DDR components, contributes to oncogenesis-is a novel idea requiring in depth studies. Further understanding about the mechanistic basis for biochemical differences between normal and tumor tissue chromatin structure will facilitate the development of new strategies for modifying IR response and improving clinical radiation therapy.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed investigation will enhance the understanding of the mechanistic basis for a major nonhistone chromatin factor HP1b function in DNA double strand break repair as well as in oncogenic transformation and tumor development. Based on our preliminary studies, normal cell function is highly sensitive to altered HP1b expression, either loss or overexpression, as determined by the important parameters of IR-induced DNA damage response and oncogenic transformation. Successful completion of proposed research will provide novel insights into the role HP1b in DNA-damage responses, and identify new approaches to improve cancer patient treatments.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Willis, Kristine Amalee
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Methodist Hospital Research Institute
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