ERCC1 (excision repair cross-complementation group 1) plays essential roles in the removal of DNA intrastrand crosslinks by nucleotide excision repair, and that of DNA interstrand crosslinks by the Fanconi anemia (FA) pathway and homology-directed repair processes (HDR). The function of ERCC1 thus impacts on the DNA damage response (DDR), particularly in anticancer therapy when DNA damaging agents are employed. ERCC1 expression has been proposed as a predictive biomarker of the response to platinum-based therapy. However, the assessment of ERCC1 expression in clinical samples is complicated by the existence of 4 functionally distinct protein isoforms, which differently impact on DDR. Here, we explored the functional competence of each ERCC1 protein isoform and obtained evidence that the 202 isoform is the sole one endowed with ERCC1 activity in DNA repair pathways. The ERCC1 isoform 202 interacts with RPA, XPA, and XPF, and XPF stability requires expression of the ERCC1 202 isoform (but none of the 3 others). ERCC1-deficient non-small cell lung cancer cells show abnormal mitosis, a phenotype reminiscent of the FA phenotype that can be rescued by isoform 202 only. Finally, we could not observe any dominant-negative interaction between ERCC1 isoforms. These data suggest that the selective assessment of the ERCC1 isoform 202 in clinical samples should accurately reflect the DDR-related activity of the gene and hence constitute a useful biomarker for customizing anticancer therapies.
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