Using genome-wide radiogenetic profiling, we functionally dissect vulnerabilities of cancer cells to ionizing radiation (IR). We identify ERCC6L2 as a major determinant of IR response, together with classical DNA damage response genes and members of the recently identified shieldin and CTC1-STN1-TEN1 (CST) complexes. We show that ERCC6L2 contributes to non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), and it may exert this function through interactions with SFPQ. In addition to causing radiosensitivity, ERCC6L2 loss restores DNA end resection and partially rescues homologous recombination (HR) in BRCA1-deficient cells. As a consequence, ERCC6L2 deficiency confers resistance to poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibition in tumors deficient for both BRCA1 and p53. Moreover, we show that ERCC6L2 mutations are found in human tumors and correlate with a better overall survival in patients treated with radiotherapy (RT); this finding suggests that ERCC6L2 is a predictive biomarker of RT response.
Institute of Animal Pathology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland.