Mutations in the CSB gene cause Cockayne syndrome (CS), a rare inherited disorder, characterized by UV-sensitivity, severe neurodevelopmental and progeroid symptoms. CSB functions in the transcription-coupled repair (TCR) sub-pathway of nucleotide excision repair (NER), responsible for the removal of UV-induced and other helix-distorting lesions from the transcribed strand of active genes. Several lines of evidence support the notion that the CSB TCR defect extends to other non-NER type transcription-blocking lesions, notably various kinds of oxidative damage, which may provide an explanation for part of the severe CS phenotype. We used genetically defined mouse models to examine the relationship between the CSB defect and sensitivity to oxidative damage in different cell types and at the level of the intact organism. The main conclusions are: (1) CSB(-/-) mouse embryo fibroblasts (MEFs) exhibit a clear hypersensitivity to ionizing radiation, extending the findings in genetically heterogeneous human CSB fibroblasts to another species. (2) CSB(-/-) MEFs are highly sensitive to paraquat, strongly indicating that the increased cytotoxicity is due to oxidative damage. (3) The hypersenstivity is independent of genetic background and directly related to the CSB defect and is not observed in totally NER-deficient XPA MEFs. (4) Wild type embryonic stem (ES) cells display an increased sensitivity to ionizing radiation compared to fibroblasts. Surprisingly, the CSB deficiency has only a very minor additional effect on ES cell sensitivity to oxidative damage and is comparable to that of an XPA defect, indicating cell type-specific differences in the contribution of TCR and NER to cellular survival. (5) Similar to ES cells, CSB and XPA mice both display a minor sensitivity to whole-body X-ray exposure. This suggests that the response of an intact organism to radiation is largely determined by the sensitivity of stem cells, rather than differentiated cells. These findings establish the role of transcription-coupled repair in resistance to oxidative damage and reveal a cell- and organ-specific impact of this repair pathway to the clinical phenotype of CS and XP.

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D N A Repair
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

de Waard, H., de Wit, J., Gorgels, T., van den Aardweg, G., Andressoo, J.-O., Vermeij, M., … van der Horst, G. (2003). Cell type-specific hypersensitivity to oxidative damage in CSB and XPA mice. D N A Repair, 2(1), 13–25. doi:10.1016/S1568-7864(02)00188-X