In eukaryotes, fumarase (FH in human) is a well-known tricarboxylic-acid-cycle enzyme in the mitochondrial matrix. However, conserved from yeast to humans is a cytosolic isoenzyme of fumarase whose function in this compartment remains obscure. A few years ago, FH was surprisingly shown to underlie a tumor susceptibility syndrome, Hereditary Leiomyomatosis and Renal Cell Cancer (HLRCC). A biallelic inactivation of FH has been detected in almost all HLRCC tumors, and therefore FH was suggested to function as a tumor suppressor. Recently it was suggested that FH inhibition leads to elevated intracellular fumarate, which in turn acts as a competitive inhibitor of HPH (HIF prolyl hydroxylase), thereby causing stabilization of HIF (Hypoxia-inducible factor) by preventing proteasomal degradation. The transcription factor HIF increases the expression of angiogenesis regulated genes, such as VEGF, which can lead to high microvessel density and tumorigenesis. Yet this mechanism does not fully explain the large cytosolic population of fumarase molecules. We constructed a yeast strain in which fumarase is localized exclusively to mitochondria. This led to the discovery that the yeast cytosolic fumarase plays a key role in the protection of cells from DNA damage, particularly from DNA double-strand breaks. We show that the cytosolic fumarase is a member of the DNA damage response that is recruited from the cytosol to the nucleus upon DNA damage induction. This function of fumarase depends on its enzymatic activity, and its absence in cells can be complemented by high concentrations of fumaric acid. Our findings suggest that fumarase and fumaric acid are critical elements of the DNA damage response, which underlies the tumor suppressor role of fumarase in human cells and which is most probably HIF independent. This study shows an exciting crosstalk between primary metabolism and the DNA damage response, thereby providing a scenario for metabolic control of tumor propagation.
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