BET inhibition induces HEXIM1- and RAD51-dependent conflicts between transcription and replication

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BET bromodomain proteins are required for oncogenic transcription activities, and BET inhibitors have been rapidly advanced into clinical trials. Understanding the effects of BET inhibition on processes such as DNA replication will be important for future clinical applications. Here we show that BET inhibition, and specifically inhibition of BRD4, causes replication stress through a rapid overall increase in RNA synthesis. We provide evidence that BET inhibition acts by releasing P-TEFb from its inhibitor HEXIM1, promoting interference between transcription and replication. Unusually, these transcription-replication conflicts do not activate the ATM/ATR-dependent DNA damage response, but recruit the homologous recombination factor RAD51. Both HEXIM1 and RAD51 promote BET inhibitor-induced fork slowing, but also prevent a DNA damage response. Our data suggest that BET inhibitors slow replication through concerted action of transcription and recombination machineries, and shed light on the importance of replication stress in the action of this class of experimental cancer drugs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2061–2069.e4
Number of pages13
JournalCell Reports
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2018


  • BRD4
  • DNA damage
  • I-BET151
  • JQ1
  • P-TEFb
  • cancer
  • homologous recombination
  • replication fork
  • replication stress


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