MicroRNAs, the DNA damage response and cancer
Many carcinogenic agents such as ultra-violet light from the sun and various natural and man-made chemicals act by damaging the DNA. To deal with these potentially detrimental effects of DNA damage, cells induce a complex DNA damage response (DDR) that includes DNA repair, cell cycle checkpoints, damage tolerance systems and apoptosis. This DDR is a potent barrier against carcinogenesis and defects within this response are observed in many, if not all, human tumors. DDR defects fuel the evolution of precancerous cells to malignant tumors, but can also induce sensitivity to DNA damaging agents in cancer cells, which can be therapeutically exploited by the use of DNA damaging treatment modalities. Regulation of and coordination between sub-pathways within the DDR is important for maintaining genome stability. Although regulation of the DDR has been extensively studied at the transcriptional and post-translational level, less is known about post-transcriptional gene regulation by microRNAs, the topic of this review. More specifically, we highlight current knowledge about DNA damage responsive microRNAs and microRNAs that regulate DNA damage response genes. We end by discussing the role of DNA damage response microRNAs in cancer etiology and sensitivity to ionizing radiation and other DNA damaging therapeutic agents.