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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Decreased transcription-coupled nucleotide excision repair capacity is associated with increased p53- and MLH1-independent apoptosis in response to cisplatin

Lawton J Stubbert13, Jennifer M Smith13 and Bruce C McKay123*

Author Affiliations

1 Cancer Therapeutics Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Ottawa, ON, Canada

2 Department of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada

3 Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:207  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-207

Published: 14 May 2010



One of the most commonly used classes of anti-cancer drugs presently in clinical practice is the platinum-based drugs, including cisplatin. The efficacy of cisplatin therapy is often limited by the emergence of resistant tumours following treatment. Cisplatin resistance is multi-factorial but can be associated with increased DNA repair capacity, mutations in p53 or loss of DNA mismatch repair capacity.


RNA interference (RNAi) was used to reduce the transcription-coupled nucleotide excision repair (TC-NER) capacity of several prostate and colorectal carcinoma cell lines with specific defects in p53 and/or DNA mismatch repair. The effect of small inhibitory RNAs designed to target the CSB (Cockayne syndrome group B) transcript on TC-NER and the sensitivity of cells to cisplatin-induced apoptosis was determined.


These prostate and colon cancer cell lines were initially TC-NER proficient and RNAi against CSB significantly reduced their DNA repair capacity. Decreased TC-NER capacity was associated with an increase in the sensitivity of tumour cells to cisplatin-induced apoptosis, even in p53 null and DNA mismatch repair-deficient cell lines.


The present work indicates that CSB and TC-NER play a prominent role in determining the sensitivity of tumour cells to cisplatin even in the absence of p53 and DNA mismatch repair. These results further suggest that CSB represents a potential target for cancer therapy that may be important to overcome resistance to cisplatin in the clinic.