Research Papers:

Vaccinia-related kinase 1 (VRK1) confers resistance to DNA-damaging agents in human breast cancer by affecting DNA damage response

Marcella Salzano, Marta Vázquez-Cedeira, Marta Sanz-García, Alberto Valbuena, Sandra Blanco, Isabel F. Fernández and Pedro A. Lazo _

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Oncotarget. 2014; 5:1770-1778. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.1678

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Marcella Salzano1,2, Marta Vázquez-Cedeira1,2, Marta Sanz-García1, Alberto Valbuena1, Sandra Blanco1, Isabel F. Fernández1,2 and Pedro A. Lazo1,2

1 Experimental Therapeutics and Translational Oncology Program, Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular del Cáncer, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Universidad de Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain

2 Instituto de Investigación Biomédica de Salamanca (IBSAL), Hospital Universitario de Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain


Pedro A. Lazo, email:

Key words: Breast cancer, VRK1, Radiation, doxorubicin, chemotherapy, DNA damage, 53BP1

Received: December 10, 2013 Accepted: January 17, 2014 Published: January 17, 2014


Vaccinia-related kinase 1 (VRK1) belongs to a group of sixteen kinases associated to a poorer prognosis in human breast carcinomas, particularly in estrogen receptor positive cases based on gene expression arrays. In this work we have studied the potential molecular mechanism by which the VRK1 protein can contribute to a poorer prognosis in this disease. For this aim it was first analyzed by immunohistochemistry the VRK1 protein level in normal breast and in one hundred and thirty six cases of human breast cancer. The effect of VRK1 to protect against DNA damage was determined by studying the effect of its knockdown on the formation of DNA repair foci assembled on 53BP1 in response to treatment with ionizing radiation or doxorubicin in two breast cancer cell lines. VRK1 protein was detected in normal breast and in breast carcinomas at high levels in ER and PR positive tumors. VRK1 protein level was significantly lower in ERBB2 positive cases. Next, to identify a mechanism that can link VRK1 to poorer prognosis, VRK1 was knocked-down in two breast cancer cell lines that were treated with ionizing radiation or doxorubicin, both inducing DNA damage. Loss of VRK1 resulted in reduced formation of DNA-damage repair foci complexes assembled on the 53BP1 scaffold protein, and this effect was independent of damaging agent or cell type. This observation is consistent with detection of high VRK1 protein levels in ER and PR positive breast cancers. We conclude that VRK1 can contribute to make these tumors more resistant to DNA damage-based therapies, such as ionizing radiation or doxorubicin, which is consistent with its association to a poor prognosis in ER positive breast cancer. VRK1 is potential target kinase for development of new specific inhibitors which can facilitate sensitization to other treatments in combination therapies; or alternatively be used as a new cancer drugs.

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