The BRCA2 gene was identified based on its involvement in familial breast cancer. The analysis of its sequence predicts that the gene encodes a protein with 3,418 amino acids but provides very few clues pointing to its biological function. In an attempt to address this question, specific antibodies were prepared that identified the gene product of BRCA2 as a 390-kDa nuclear protein. Furthermore, direct binding of human RAD51 to each of the four single 30-amino acid BRC repeats located at the 5' portion of exon 11 of BRCA2 was demonstrated. Such an interaction is significant, as BRCA2 and RAD51 can be reciprocally coimmunoprecipitated by each of the individual, specific antibodies and form complexes in vivo. Inferring from the function of RAD51 in DNA repair, human pancreatic cancer cells, Capan-1, expressing truncated BRCA2 were shown to be hypersensitive to methyl methanesulfonate (MMS) treatment. Exogenous expression of wild-type BRCA2, but not BRC-deleted mutants, in Capan-1 cells confers resistance to MMS treatment. These results suggest that the interaction between the BRC repeats of BRCA2 and RAD51 is critical for cellular response to DNA damage caused by MMS.
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