Patients carrying mutations in the XPB helicase subunit of the basal transcription and nucleotide excision repair (NER) factor TFIIH display the combined cancer and developmental-progeroid disorder xeroderma pigmentosum/Cockayne syndrome (XPCS). Due to the dual transcription repair role of XPB and the absence of animal models, the underlying molecular mechanisms of XPBXPCS are largely uncharacterized. Here we show that severe alterations in Xpb cause embryonic lethality and that knock-in mice closely mimicking an XPCS patient-derived XPB mutation recapitulate the UV sensitivity typical for XP but fail to show overt CS features unless the DNA repair capacity is further challenged by crossings to the NER-deficient Xpa background. Interestingly, the XpbXPCS Xpa double mutants display a remarkable interanimal variance, which points to stochastic DNA damage accumulation as an important determinant of clinical diversity in NER syndromes. Furthermore, mice carrying the XpbXPCS mutation together with a point mutation in the second TFIIH helicase Xpd are healthy at birth but display neonatal lethality, indicating that transcription efficiency is sufficient to permit embryonal development even when both TFIIH helicases are crippled. The double-mutant cells exhibit sensitivity to oxidative stress, suggesting a role for endogenous DNA damage in the onset of XPB-associated CS.

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Molecular and Cellular Biology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Andressoo, J.-O., Weeda, G., de Wit, J., Mitchell, J., Beems, R., van Steeg, H., … Hoeijmakers, J. (2009). An Xpb mouse model for combined xeroderma pigmentosum and cockayne syndrome reveals progeroid features upon further attenuation of DNA repair. Molecular and Cellular Biology, 29(5), 1276–1290. doi:10.1128/MCB.01229-08