Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Molecular and Cellular Biology

First Advisor

D. Joseph Jerry

Second Advisor

Sallie Smith Schneider

Third Advisor

Steven J. Sandler

Subject Categories

Cell Biology


Loss of p53 function can lead to a variety of cancers, including breast cancer. Mice heterozygous for the p53 gene (designated Trp53+/-) develop spontaneous mammary tumors, but this depends on the strain background and has been linked to a locus on chromosome 7 (designated SuprMam1). Mammary tumors are common in BALB/c-Trp53+/-females, but are rare in C57BL/6-Trp53+/- mice. Prevalence of genomic instability appears to contribute to the phenotype as loss of heterozygosity (LOH) is significantly more common among tumors arising in BALB/c-Trp53+/- mice compared to C57BL/6J-Trp53+/- mice. This increased LOH in BALB/c-Trp53+/- tumors was shown to be due to recombination events. The BALB/c strain has been shown to have a deficiency in non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) of DNA double strand breaks (dsb), however, this does not account for the increase of LOH events in tumors. Our hypothesis was that BALB/c-Trp53+/- mice are more susceptible to mammary tumors due to impaired Homologous Recombination Repair (HRR) leading to LOH. Using the COMET assay, we demonstrate that dsbs persist longer in BALB/c-Trp53+/- mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) compared to C57BL/6J-Trp53+/- MEFs. Similarly, co-localization of H2AX and the homologous recombination protein RAD51 remain at dsbs longer in BALB/c-Trp53+/- MEFs compared to C57BL/6-Trp53+/- MEFs. Palb2, a gene that lies within the SuprMam1 interval and has been shown to contribute to heritable breast cancer, was chosen as an initial candidate gene. No coding SNPs or expression differences of Palb2 were found in the mammary glands between the two strains. Additional fine mapping and use of a filtering criteria in the SuprMam1 region yielded an additional 34 candidate genes. We demonstrate no significant differences in any of these genes in whole mammary glands and primary mammary epithelial cells between the two strains. Finally, using a congenic mouse strain, we demonstrate the lack of irradiation (IR) sensitivity alleles within the SuprMam1 region. These results suggest a possible defect in HRR in the BALB/c strain that is unlikely related to Palb2. The gene or genes respsonsible for increased mammary tumor incidence in the BALB/c-Trp53+/- remain to be identified. vii


Included in

Cell Biology Commons