An RNAi screen in human cell lines reveals conserved DNA damage repair pathways that mitigate formaldehyde sensitivity.

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DNA repair


DNA damage response; DNA repair; Double-strand break repair; Formaldehyde; siRNA screen


Formaldehyde is a ubiquitous DNA damaging agent, with human exposures occurring from both exogenous and endogenous sources. Formaldehyde exposure can result in multiple types of DNA damage, including DNA-protein crosslinks and thus, is representative of other exposures that induce DNA-protein crosslinks such as cigarette smoke, automobile exhaust, wood smoke, metals, ionizing radiation, and certain chemotherapeutics. Our objective in this study was to identify the genes necessary to mitigate formaldehyde toxicity following chronic exposure in human cells. We used siRNAs that targeted 320 genes representing all major human DNA repair and damage response pathways, in order to assess cell proliferation following siRNA depletion and subsequent formaldehyde treatment. Three unrelated human cell lines frequently used in genotoxicity studies (SW480, U-2 OS and GM00639) were used to identify common pathways involved in mitigating formaldehyde sensitivity. Although there were gene-specific differences among the cell lines, four inter-related cellular pathways were determined to mitigate formaldehyde toxicity: homologous recombination, DNA double-strand break repair, ionizing radiation response and DNA replication. Additional insight into cell line-specific response patterns was obtained by using a combination of exome sequencing and Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia genomic data. The results of this DNA damage repair pathway-focused siRNA screen for formaldehyde toxicity in human cells provide a foundation for detailed mechanistic analyses of pathway-specific involvement in the response to environmentally-induced DNA-protein crosslinks and, more broadly, genotoxicity studies using human and other mammalian cell lines.


Institute for Systems Biology