Dissecting cellular responses to irradiation via targeted disruptions of the ATM-CHK1-PP2A circuit


Exposure of proliferating cells to genotoxic stresses activates a cascade of signaling events termed the DNA damage response (DDR). The DDR preserves genetic stability by detecting DNA lesions, activating cell cycle checkpoints and promoting DNA damage repair. The phosphoinositide 3-kinase-related kinases (PIKKs) ataxia telangiectasia-mutated (ATM), ATM and Rad 3-related kinase (ATR) and DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) are crucial for sensing lesions and signal transduction. The checkpoint kinase 1 (CHK1) is a traditional ATR target involved in DDR and normal cell cycle progression and represents a pharmacological target for anticancer regimens. This study employed cell lines stably depleted for CHK1, ATM or both for dissecting cross-talk and compensatory effects on G₂/M checkpoint in response to ionizing radiation (IR). We show that a 90% depletion of CHK1 renders cells radiosensitive without abrogating their IR-mediated G₂/M checkpoint arrest. ATM phosphorylation is enhanced in CHK1-deficient cells compared with their wild-type counterparts. This correlates with lower nuclear abundance of the PP2A catalytic subunit in CHK1-depleted cells. Stable depletion of CHK1 in an ATM-deficient background showed only a 50% reduction from wild-type CHK1 protein expression levels and resulted in an additive attenuation of the G₂/M checkpoint response compared with the individual knockdowns. ATM inhibition and 90% CHK1 depletion abrogated the early G₂/M checkpoint and precluded the cells from mounting an efficient compensatory response to IR at later time points. Our data indicates that dual targeting of ATM and CHK1 functionalities disrupts the compensatory response to DNA damage and could be exploited for developing efficient anti-neoplastic treatments.

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Dissecting cellular responses to irradiation via targeted disruptions of the ATM-CHK1-PP2A circuit