While breast cancer 2 (BRCA2) loss of heterozygosity (LOH) promotes cancer initiation, it can also induce death in nontransformed cells. In contrast, mismatch repair gene mutL homolog 1 (MLH1) is a tumor-suppressor gene that protects cells from cancer development through repairing mismatched base pairs during DNA mismatch repair (MMR). Sengodan et al., in this issue of the JCI, reveal an interplay between the 2 genes: MLH1 promoted the survival of BRCA2-deficient cells independently of its MMR function. MLH1 protected replication forks from degradation, while also resolving R-loops, thereby reducing genomic instability. Moreover, MLH1 expression was regulated directly by estrogen, shedding light into the hormone-responsive nature of many BRCA2 mutant breast cancers. These results provide important insight into the genetics that drive the initiation of BRCA2-mutated breast cancers.


Neil Johnson


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