BET proteins regulate homologous recombination-mediated DNA repair: BRCAness and implications for cancer therapy

Catia Mio, Lorenzo Gerratana, Marco Bolis, Federica Caponnetto, Andrea Zanello, Mattia Barbina, Carla Di Loreto, Enrico Garattini, Giuseppe Damante, Fabio Puglisi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bromodomain and Extra-Terminal (BET) proteins are historically involved in regulating gene expression and BRD4 was recently found to be involved in DNA damage regulation. Aims of our study were to assess BRD4 regulation in homologous recombination-mediated DNA repair and to explore novel clinical strategies through the combinations of the pharmacological induction of epigenetic BRCAness in BRCA1 wild-type triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells by means of BET inhibitors and compounds already available in clinic. Performing a dual approach (chromatin immunoprecipitation and RNA interference), the direct relationship between BRD4 and BRCA1/RAD51 expression was confirmed in TNBC cells. Moreover, BRD4 pharmacological inhibition using two BET inhibitors (JQ1 and GSK525762A) induced a dose-dependent reduction in BRCA1 and RAD51 levels and is able to hinder homologous recombination-mediated DNA damage repair, generating a BRCAness phenotype in TNBC cells. Furthermore, BET inhibition impaired the ability of TNBC cells to overcome the increase in DNA damage after platinum salts (i.e., CDDP) exposure, leading to massive cell death, and triggered synthetic lethality when combined with PARP inhibitors (i.e., AZD2281). Altogether, the present study confirms that BET proteins directly regulate the homologous recombination pathway and their inhibition induced a BRCAness phenotype in BRCA1 wild-type TNBC cells. Noteworthy, being this strategy based on drugs already available for human use, it is rapidly transferable and could potentially enable clinicians to exploit platinum salts and PARP inhibitors-based treatments in a wider population of TNBC patients and not just in a specific subgroup, after validating clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)755-766
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 15 2019


  • BET inhibitors
  • BRCAness
  • homologous recombination
  • synthetic lethality
  • triple negative breast neoplasms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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