Homologous recombination (HR) contributes to the repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) and inter-strand crosslinks. The HR activity in cancer cells can be used to predict their sensitivity to DNA-damaging agents that cause these damages. To evaluate HR activity, we developed a system called Assay for Site-specific HR Activity (ASHRA), in which cells are transiently transfected with an expression vector for CRISPR/Cas9 and a HR donor sequence containing a marker gene. DSBs are created by Cas9 and then repaired by HR using donor vector sequences homologous to the target gene. The level of genomic integration of the marker gene is quantified by Western blotting, flowcytometry, or quantitative PCR (qPCR). ASHRA detected HR deficiency caused by BRCA1, BARD1, or RAD51 knockdown or introduction of BRCA1 variants. The influence of BRCA1 variants on HR, as determined by qPCR, was consistent with the chemosensitivities of the transfected cells. The qPCR format of ASHRA could measure HR activity in both transcribed and un-transcribed regions. Knockdown of BRCA1 nor BARD1 did not affect HR activity in a transcriptionally inactive site. ASHRA can evaluate HR activity and will be useful for predicting sensitivity to chemotherapy, screening drugs that affect HR, and investigating the mechanisms of HR.
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