Inhibitors of Rho kinases (ROCK) induce multiple mitotic defects and synthetic lethality in BRCA2-deficient cells

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Center for Molecular Medicine, MaineHealth Institute for Research

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The trapping of Poly-ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) on DNA caused by PARP inhibitors (PARPi) triggers acute DNA replication stress and synthetic lethality (SL) in BRCA2-deficient cells. Hence, DNA damage is accepted as a prerequisite for SL in BRCA2-deficient cells. In contrast, here we show that inhibiting ROCK in BRCA2-deficient cells triggers SL independently from acute replication stress. Such SL is preceded by polyploidy and binucleation resulting from cytokinesis failure. Such initial mitosis abnormalities are followed by other M-phase defects, including anaphase bridges and abnormal mitotic figures associated with multipolar spindles, supernumerary centrosomes and multinucleation. SL was also triggered by inhibiting Citron Rho-interacting kinase, another enzyme that, similarly to ROCK, regulates cytokinesis. Together, these observations demonstrate that cytokinesis failure triggers mitotic abnormalities and SL in BRCA2-deficient cells. Furthermore, the prevention of mitotic entry by depletion of Early mitotic inhibitor 1 (EMI1) augmented the survival of BRCA2-deficient cells treated with ROCK inhibitors, thus reinforcing the association between M-phase and cell death in BRCA2-deficient cells. This novel SL differs from the one triggered by PARPi and uncovers mitosis as an Achilles heel of BRCA2-deficient cells.