Research ArticleDNA Repair

Transient ATM Kinase Inhibition Disrupts DNA Damage–Induced Sister Chromatid Exchange

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Sci. Signal.  01 Jun 2010:
Vol. 3, Issue 124, pp. ra44
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2000758

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Abstract

Cells derived from ataxia telangiectasia (A-T) patients exhibit defective cell cycle checkpoints because of mutations in the gene encoding ATM (ataxia telangiectasia mutated). After exposure to ionizing radiation (IR), A-T cells exhibit sensitivity to IR-induced cellular damage that results in increased chromosome aberrations and cell death (radiosensitivity). ATM is a member of a family of kinases that become activated in response to DNA damage. We showed that even transient inhibition of ATM kinase for 1 hour, initiated 15 minutes after cellular irradiation, resulted in an accumulation of persistent chromosome aberrations and increased cell death. Using reversible inhibitors of DNA-PK (DNA-dependent protein kinase), another kinase involved in responding to DNA damage, and ATM, we showed that these two kinases acted through distinct DNA repair mechanisms: ATM resolved DNA damage through a mechanism involving sister chromatid exchange (SCE), whereas DNA-PK acted through nonhomologous end joining. Furthermore, because DNA damage–induced SCE occurred in A-T fibroblasts that lack functional ATM protein, and the inhibitors of ATM kinase had no effect on DNA damage–induced SCE in A-T fibroblasts, we showed that the consequences of short-term inhibition of the kinase activity of ATM and adaptation to ATM protein disruption were distinct. This suggests that A-T fibroblasts have adapted to the loss of ATM and have alternative mechanisms to initiate SCE.

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