Mammalian genomes encode at least 15 distinct DNA polymerases, functioning as specialists in DNA replication, DNA repair, recombination, or bypass of DNA damage. Although the DNA polymerase zeta (polzeta) catalytic subunit REV3L is important in defense against genotoxins, little is known of its biological function. This is because REV3L is essential during embryogenesis, unlike other translesion DNA polymerases. Outstanding questions include whether any adult cells are viable in the absence of polzeta and whether polzeta status influences tumorigenesis. REV3L-deficient cells have properties that could influence the development of neoplasia in opposing ways: markedly reduced damage-induced point mutagenesis and extensive chromosome instability. To answer these questions, Rev3L was conditionally deleted from tissues of adult mice using MMTV-Cre. Loss of REV3L was tolerated in epithelial tissues but not in the hematopoietic lineage. Thymic lymphomas in Tp53(-/-) Rev3L conditional mice occurred with decreased latency and higher incidence. The lymphomas were populated predominantly by Rev3L-null T cells, showing that loss of Rev3L can promote tumorigenesis. Remarkably, the tumors were frequently oligoclonal, consistent with accelerated genetic changes in the absence of Rev3L. Mammary tumors could also arise from Rev3L-deleted cells in both Tp53(+/+) and Tp53(+/-) backgrounds. Mammary tumors in Tp53(+/-) mice deleting Rev3L formed months earlier than mammary tumors in Tp53(+/-) control mice. Prominent preneoplastic changes in glandular tissue adjacent to these tumors occurred only in mice deleting Rev3L and were associated with increased tumor multiplicity. Polzeta is the only specialized DNA polymerase yet identified that inhibits spontaneous tumor development.
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