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Open Access Review

On the traces of XPD: cell cycle matters - untangling the genotype-phenotype relationship of XPD mutations

Elisabetta Cameroni, Karin Stettler and Beat Suter*

Author Affiliations

Institute of Cell Biology, University of Bern, Baltzerstrasse 4, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland

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Cell Division 2010, 5:24  doi:10.1186/1747-1028-5-24

Published: 15 September 2010

Abstract

Mutations in the human gene coding for XPD lead to segmental progeria - the premature appearance of some of the phenotypes normally associated with aging - which may or may not be accompanied by increased cancer incidence. XPD is required for at least three different critical cellular functions: in addition to participating in the process of nucleotide excision repair (NER), which removes bulky DNA lesions, XPD also regulates transcription as part of the general transcription factor IIH (TFIIH) and controls cell cycle progression through its interaction with CAK, a pivotal activator of cyclin dependent kinases (CDKs). The study of inherited XPD disorders offers the opportunity to gain insights into the coordination of important cellular events and may shed light on the mechanisms that regulate the delicate equilibrium between cell proliferation and functional senescence, which is notably altered during physiological aging and in cancer.

The phenotypic manifestations in the different XPD disorders are the sum of disturbances in the vital processes carried out by TFIIH and CAK. In addition, further TFIIH- and CAK-independent cellular activities of XPD may also play a role. This, added to the complex feedback networks that are in place to guarantee the coordination between cell cycle, DNA repair and transcription, complicates the interpretation of clinical observations. While results obtained from patient cell isolates as well as from murine models have been elementary in revealing such complexity, the Drosophila embryo has proven useful to analyze the role of XPD as a cell cycle regulator independently from its other cellular functions. Together with data from the biochemical and structural analysis of XPD and of the TFIIH complex these results combine into a new picture of the XPD activities that provides ground for a better understanding of the patophysiology of XPD diseases and for future development of diagnostic and therapeutic tools.