Assessing the Effects of Inherited Mutations on PALB2 Structure and Function

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Davis Martin, Class of 2021


The proper functioning of the protein PALB2 is vital to preventing tumor formation within breast tissues in individuals. Upon the detection of DNA damage, PALB2 and BRCA1 bind to each other along with BRCA2 to form a DNA repair complex. This complex then repairs DNA double-strand breaks in order to prevent the accumulation of DNA damage that leads to breast cancer. While both BRCA1 and BRCA2 have been extensively studied, a lot of information about the structure and function of PALB2 remains unknown. It is thought that BRCA1 and PALB2 bind via PALB2's coiled-coil domain; however, how variants of unknown significance (VUS) affect this binding interaction is largely unknown. Further, while some of these VUS have been studied in vivo, cheaper and easier in vitro methods to measure their effect on binding affinity have yet to be formulated. Thus, we hypothesized that isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) could be used as an in vitro testing method for assessing the effects of VUS within the coiled-coil domain of PALB2 on the binding event between PALB2 and BRCA1. Further, we hypothesized that a decrease in binding between the two proteins as measured by ITC would correlate with a decrease in DNA repair as measured in vivo. We tested the efficacy of this method by creating seven mutations within the coiled-coil domain of PALB2 and measuring the binding event of PALB2 to BRCA1 via ITC. Our results strongly suggest that the binding event is enthalpic in nature and can be adequately measured using ITC as evidenced by the correlation between our in vitro data and previous in vivo data.

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College of Science and Engineering