Mol Oncol 5 (4) 387-393 [2011-08-00; online 2011-07-22]
Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors effectively kill tumours defective in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes through the concept of synthetic lethality. It is suggested that PARP inhibitors cause an increase in DNA single-strand breaks (SSBs), which are converted during replication to irreparable toxic DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in BRCA1/2 defective cells. There are a number of recent reports challenging this model. Here, alternative models that are not mutually exclusive are presented to explain the synthetic lethality between BRCA1/2 and PARP inhibitors. One such model proposes that PARP inhibition causes PARP-1 to be trapped onto DNA repair intermediates, especially during base excision repair. This may in turn cause obstruction to replication forks, which require BRCA-dependent homologous recombination to be resolved. In another model, PARP is directly involved in catalysing replication repair in a distinct pathway from homologous recombination. Experimental evidence supporting these novel models to explain the PARP-BRCA synthetic lethality are discussed.