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Xrcc2 is one of a family of five Rad51-like genes with important roles in the repair of DNA damage by homologous recombination (HR) in mammals. We have shown previously that loss of Xrcc2 in mice results in severe but variable developmental defects and embryonic lethality, potentially linked to excessive apoptosis. To look at the causes of lethality, and possibly to allow Xrcc2-/- mice to survive to birth, we have produced double knockout mice deficient in either the p53 oncoprotein or Ataxia telangiectasia mutated (Atm). Overall we show that the excessive apoptosis observed in Xrcc2-/- embryos is p53-dependent, and that loss of p53 can restore growth capacity to Xrcc2-/- fibroblasts in culture, but that it cannot rescue the embryonic lethality. Additionally, although the Xrcc2-/- Trp53-/- embryos show a near-normal morphology they remain relatively small in size. Loss of Atm in an Xrcc2-/- embryo has little effect, suggesting that response to loss of HR capacity is not mediated through the Atm kinase in the early stages of mouse development. Further, as seen by reduced expression of the early developmental marker, Delta-like1, the normal developmental programme is perturbed in Xrcc2-/- embryonic tissues, particularly during neurogenesis and somitogenesis. Taken together our data suggest that the accumulation of spontaneous damage in HR-deficient embryos has severe consequences for the development and survival of mammals due to the unregulated loss of cells important to the developmental programme.

Original publication




Journal article


DNA Repair (Amst)

Publication Date





224 - 234


Animals, Apoptosis, Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins, Base Sequence, Cell Cycle Proteins, DNA Damage, DNA Primers, DNA Repair, DNA-Binding Proteins, Embryonic Development, Female, Genes, p53, Gestational Age, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Knockout, Nervous System, Phenotype, Pregnancy, Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases, Signal Transduction, Tumor Suppressor Proteins