Regulation of the activation of the Fanconi anemia pathway by the p21 cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor

Document Type


Date of Original Version



Fanconi anemia (FA) is a rare disease characterized by congenital defects, progressive bone marrow failure and heightened cancer susceptibility. The FA proteins, BRCA1 and FANCD1/BRCA2 function cooperatively in the FA-BRCA pathway to repair damaged DNA. Activation of the FA-BRCA pathway occurs via the monoubiquitination of the FANCD2 and FANCI proteins, targeting these proteins to discrete nuclear foci where they function in DNA repair. The cellular regulation of FANCD2/I monoubiquitination, however, remains poorly understood. In this study, we have examined the roles of the p53 tumor suppressor protein, as well as its downstream target, the p21 Cip1/Waf1 cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, in the regulation of the activation of the FA-BRCA pathway. We demonstrate that, in contrast to p53, p21 has a major role in the regulation of the activation of the FA-BRCA pathway: p21 promotes S-phase and DNA damage-inducible FANCD2/I monoubiquitination and nuclear foci formation. Several lines of evidence establish that this effect is not a consequence of a defective G1-S checkpoint or altered cell-cycle progression in the absence of p21. Instead, we demonstrate that p21 is required for the transcriptional repression of the USP1 deubiquitinating enzyme upon exposure to DNA-damaging agents. In the absence of p21, persistent USP1 expression precludes the DNA damage-inducible accumulation of monoubiquitinated FANCD2 and FANCI. Consequently, p21 -/- cells exhibit increased levels of mitomycin C-inducible complex chromosomal aberrations and elevated γH2AX nuclear foci formation. Our results demonstrate that p21 has a critical role in the regulation of the activation of the FA-BRCA pathway and suggest a broader role for p21 in the orchestration of DNA repair processes following exposure to DNA crosslinking agents. © 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited All rights reserved.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal