The tumor suppressor BRCA1 is a nuclear shuttling protein. However, the role of BRCA1 localization in the control of its functions remains to be elucidated. Given the central role of BRCA1 in DNA damage repair, we hypothesized that depletion of nuclear BRCA1 would compromise its nuclear function in DNA repair and thereby result in enhanced cytotoxic response to DNA damage. In this study, we showed that repair of DNA double-strand breaks required BRCA1 in the nucleus. In addition, sequestering BRCA1 in the cytosol enhanced the cytotoxic response to ionizing radiation or cisplatin in human breast and colon cancer cells. However, further genetic dissection of the mechanism of this enhanced cytotoxicity using BRCA1 mutants deficient in double-strand break repair unexpectedly revealed a dissociation of BRCA1's function in DNA repair from its effects on cellular sensitivity to DNA damage. Interestingly, we observed a dependence of the DNA damage-induced cell killing on the translocation and accumulation of BRCA1 in the cytosol. Together, these data suggest a novel role of cytoplasmic translocation of BRCA1, not only in controlling its DNA repair functions, but also in the regulation of cell death processes following DNA damage. Further dissection of the mechanism of cytotoxicity induced by BRCA1 cytoplasmic translocation revealed the involvement of the apoptotic pathway. We propose that the status of BRCA1 nuclear/cytoplasmic shuttling might provide a molecular marker to predict tumor response and a potential novel target to sensitize cancer cells to DNA damage-based therapy. ©2010 AACR.