© 2015 The Authors. Cancer Science published by Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd on behalf of Japanese Cancer Association.
Radiotherapy is widely applied for treatment of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). The Rad51-related protein XRCC3 plays roles in the recombinational repair of DNA double-strand breaks to maintain chromosome stability and repair DNA damage. The present study aimed to investigate the effect of XRCC3 on the radiotherapy response of ESCC and the underlying mechanisms of the roles of XRCC3 in ESCC radiosensitivity. XRCC3 expression in ESCC cells and tissues was higher than that in normal esophageal epithelial cells and corresponding adjacent noncancerous esophageal tissue. High XRCC3 expression was positively correlated with resistance to chemoradiotherapy in ESCC and an independent predictor for short disease-specific survival of ESCC patients. Furthermore, the therapeutic efficacy of radiotherapy in vitro and in vivo was substantially increased by knockdown of XRCC3 in ESCC cells. Ectopic overexpression of XRCC3 in both XRCC3-silenced ESCC cells dramatically enhanced ESCC cells' resistance to radiotherapy. Moreover, radiation resistance conferred by XRCC3 was attributed to enhancement of homologous recombination, maintenance of telomere stability, and a reduction of ESCC cell death by radiation-induced apoptosis and mitotic catastrophe. Our data suggest that XRCC3 protects ESCC cells from ionizing radiation-induced death by promoting DNA damage repair and/or enhancing telomere stability. XRCC3 may be a novel radiosensitivity predictor and promising therapeutic target for ESCC.