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Replication Gaps Are A Cancer Vulnerability Counteracted By Translesion Synthesis

Sumeet Nayak, Jennifer A. Calvo, Ke Cong, Emily Berthiaume, Jessica Jackson, Radha Charon Dash, Alessandro Vindigni, Kyle M. Hadden, Sharon B. Cantor

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SUMMARYThe replication stress response which serves as an anti-cancer barrier is activated not only by DNA damage and replication obstacles, but also oncogenes, mystifying how cancer evolves. Here, we identify that oncogene expression, similar to cancer therapies, induces single stranded DNA (ssDNA) gaps that reduce cell fitness, unless suppressed by translesion synthesis (TLS). DNA fiber analysis and electron microscopy reveal that TLS restricts replication fork slowing, reversal, and fork degradation without inducing replication fork gaps. Evidence that TLS gap suppression is fundamental to cancer, a small molecule inhibitor targeting the TLS factor, REV1, not only disrupts DNA replication and cancer cell fitness, but also synergizes with gap-inducing therapies. This work illuminates that gap suppression during replication is critical for cancer cell fitness and therefore a targetable vulnerability.