Non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) is one of the primary pathways for the repair of ionizing radiation (IR)-induced DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in mammalian cells. Proteins required for NHEJ include the catalytic subunit of the DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PKcs), Ku, XRCC4 and DNA ligase IV. Current models predict that DNA-PKcs, Ku, XRCC4 and DNA ligase IV assemble at DSBs and that the protein kinase activity of DNA-PKcs is essential for NHEJ-mediated repair of DSBs in vivo. We previously identified a cluster of autophosphorylation sites between amino acids 2609 and 2647 of DNA-PKcs. Cells expressing DNA-PKcs in which these autophosphorylation sites have been mutated to alanine are highly radiosensitive and defective in their ability to repair DSBs in the context of extrachromosomal assays. Here, we show that cells expressing DNA-PKcs with mutated autophosphorylation sites are also defective in the repair of IR-induced DSBs in the context of chromatin. Purified DNA-PKcs proteins containing serine/threonine to alanine or aspartate mutations at this cluster of autophosphorylation sites were indistinguishable from wild-type (wt) protein with respect to protein kinase activity. However, mutant DNA-PKcs proteins were defective relative to wt DNA-PKcs with respect to their ability to support T4 DNA ligase-mediated intermolecular ligation of DNA ends. We propose that autophosphorylation of DNA-PKcs at this cluster of sites is important for remodeling of DNA-PK complexes at DNA ends prior to DNA end joining.
The protein kinase activity of the DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) is required for the repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) via the process of nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ). However, to date, the only target shown to be functionally relevant for the enzymatic role of DNA-PK in NHEJ is the large catalytic subunit DNA-PKcs itself. In vitro, autophosphorylation of DNA-PKcs induces kinase inactivation and dissociation of DNA-PKcs from the DNA end-binding component Ku70/Ku80. Phosphorylation within the two previously identified clusters of phosphorylation sites does not mediate inactivation of the assembled complex and only partially regulates kinase disassembly, suggesting that additional autophosphorylation sites may be important for DNA-PK function. Here, we show that DNA-PKcs contains a highly conserved amino acid (threonine 3950) in a region similar to the activation loop or t-loop found in the protein kinase domain of members of the typical eukaryotic protein kinase family. We demonstrate that threonine 3950 is an in vitro autophosphorylation site and that this residue, as well as other previously identified sites in the ABCDE cluster, is phosphorylated in vivo in irradiated cells. Moreover, we show that mutation of threonine 3950 to the phosphomimic aspartic acid abrogates V(D)J recombination and leads to radiation sensitivity. Together, these data suggest that threonine 3950 is a functionally important, DNA damage-inducible phosphorylation site and that phosphorylation of this site regulates the activity of DNA-PKcs.
The DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) and Ku heterodimer together form the biologically critical DNA-PK complex that plays key roles in the repair of ionizing radiation-induced DNA double-strand breaks through the non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) pathway. Despite elegant and informative electron microscopy studies, the mechanism by which DNA-PK co-ordinates the initiation of NHEJ has been enigmatic due to limited structural information. Here, we discuss how the recently described small angle X-ray scattering structures of full-length Ku heterodimer and DNA-PKcs in solution, combined with a breakthrough DNA-PKcs crystal structure, provide significant insights into the early stages of NHEJ. Dynamic structural changes associated with a functionally important cluster of autophosphorylation sites play a significant role in regulating the dissociation of DNA-PKcs from Ku and DNA. These new structural insights have implications for understanding the formation and control of the DNA-PK synaptic complex, DNA-PKcs activation and initiation of NHEJ. More generally, they provide prototypic information for the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase-like (PIKK) family of serine/threonine protein kinases that includes Ataxia Telangiectasia-Mutated (ATM) and ATM-, Rad3-related (ATR) as well as DNA-PKcs.
DNA-PKcs; non-homologous end joining; DNA double strand break repair; SAXS; phosphorylation
The catalytic subunit of the DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PKcs) plays a major role in the repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) by nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ). We have previously shown that DNA-PKcs is autophosphorylated in response to ionizing radiation (IR) and that dephosphorylation by a protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A)-like protein phosphatase (PP2A, PP4, or PP6) regulates the protein kinase activity of DNA-PKcs. Here we report that DNA-PKcs interacts with the catalytic subunits of PP6 (PP6c) and PP2A (PP2Ac), as well as with the PP6 regulatory subunits PP6R1, PP6R2, and PP6R3. Consistent with a role in the DNA damage response, silencing of PP6c by small interfering RNA (siRNA) induced sensitivity to IR and delayed release from the G2/M checkpoint. Furthermore, siRNA silencing of either PP6c or PP6R1 led to sustained phosphorylation of histone H2AX on serine 139 (γ-H2AX) after IR. In contrast, silencing of PP6c did not affect the autophosphorylation of DNA-PKcs on serine 2056 or that of the ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) protein on serine 1981. We propose that a novel function of DNA-PKcs is to recruit PP6 to sites of DNA damage and that PP6 contributes to the dephosphorylation of γ-H2AX, the dissolution of IR-induced foci, and release from the G2/M checkpoint in vivo.
DNA double strand break (DSB) repair by non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) is initiated by DSB detection by Ku70/80 (Ku) and DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) recruitment, which promotes pathway progression through poorly defined mechanisms. Here, Ku and DNA-PKcs solution structures alone and in complex with DNA, defined by x-ray scattering, reveal major structural reorganizations that choreograph NHEJ initiation. The Ku80 C-terminal region forms a flexible arm that extends from the DNA-binding core to recruit and retain DNA-PKcs at DSBs. Furthermore, Ku- and DNA-promoted assembly of a DNA-PKcs dimer facilitates trans-autophosphorylation at the DSB. The resulting site-specific autophosphorylation induces a large conformational change that opens DNA-PKcs and promotes its release from DNA ends. These results show how protein and DNA interactions initiate large Ku and DNA-PKcs rearrangements to control DNA-PK biological functions as a macromolecular machine orchestrating assembly and disassembly of the initial NHEJ complex on DNA.
The inhibition of DNA damage response pathway seems to be an attractive strategy for cancer therapy. It was previously reported that in rodent cells exposed to heat stress, cell growth was promoted by the activity of DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK), an enzyme involved in DNA non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) required for double-strand break repair. The absence of a functioning DNA-PK was associated with down regulation of heat shock protein 70 (HSP70). The objective of this study is thus to investigate the role of DNA-PK inhibition in heat-induced apoptosis in human cell lines. The inhibitors of phosphorylation of the DNA-PK catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) at Ser2056, such as NU7026 and NU7441, were utilized. Furthermore, knock down of DNA-PKcs was carried out using small interfering RNA (siDNA-PKcs). For heat exposure, cells were placed in water bath at 44°C for 60 min. Apoptosis was evaluated after 24 h incubation flow cytometrically. Proteins were extracted after 24 h and analyzed for HSP70 and HSP40 expression by Western blotting. Total RNA was extracted 6 h after treatment and analyzed using a GeneChip® microarray system to identify and select the up-regulated genes (≥1.5 fold). The results showed an enhancement in heat-induced apoptosis in absence of functioning DNA-PKcs. Interestingly, the expression levels of HSP70 and HSP40 were elevated in the absence of DNA-PKcs under heat stress. The results of genetic network analysis showed that HSPs and JUN genes were up-regulated independently of DNA-PKcs in exposed parent and knock out cells. In the presence of functioning DNA-PKcs, there was an observed up-regulation of anti-apoptotic genes, such as NR1D1, whereas in the absence of DNA-PKcs the pro-apoptotic genes, such as EGR2, were preferentially up-regulated. From these findings, we concluded that in human cells, the inactivation of DNA-PKcs can promote heat-induced apoptosis independently of heat-shock proteins.
Phosphorylation of the DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) upon ionizing radiation (IR) is essential for cellular radioresistance and nonhomologous-end-joining-mediated DNA double-strand break repair. In addition to IR induction, we have previously shown that DNA-PKcs phosphorylation is increased upon camptothecin treatment, which induces replication stress and replication-associated double-strand breaks. To clarify the involvement of DNA-PKcs in this process, we analyzed DNA-PKcs phosphorylation in response to UV irradiation, which causes replication stress and activates ATR (ATM-Rad3-related)/ATM (ataxia-telangiectasia mutated) kinases in a replication-dependent manner. Upon UV irradiation, we observed a rapid DNA-PKcs phosphorylation at T2609 and T2647, but not at S2056, distinct from that induced by IR. UV-induced DNA-PKcs phosphorylation occurs specifically only in replicating cells and is dependent on ATR kinase. Inhibition of ATR activity via caffeine, a dominant-negative kinase-dead mutant, or RNA interference led to the attenuation of UV-induced DNA-PKcs phosphorylation. Furthermore, DNA-PKcs associates with ATR in vivo and is phosphorylated by ATR in vitro, suggesting that DNA-PKcs could be the direct downstream target of ATR. Taken together, these results strongly suggest that DNA-PKcs is required for the cellular response to replication stress and might play an important role in the repair of stalled replication forks.
The catalytic subunit of DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PKcs) is the key functional element in the DNA-PK complex that drives nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ), the predominant DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair mechanism operating to rejoin such breaks in mammalian cells after exposure to ionizing radiation. It has been reported that DNA-PKcs phosphorylation and kinase activity are critical determinants of radiosensitivity, based on responses reported after irradiation of asynchronously dividing populations of various mutant cell lines. In the present study, the relative radiosensitivity to cell killing as well as chromosomal instability of 13 DNA-PKcs site-directed mutant cell lines (defective at phosphorylation sites or kinase activity) were examined after exposure of synchronized G1 cells to 137Cs γ rays. DNA-PKcs mutant cells defective in phosphorylation at multiple sites within the T2609 cluster or within the PI3K domain displayed extreme radiosensitivity. Cells defective at the S2056 cluster or T2609 single site alone were only mildly radiosensitive, but cells defective at even one site in both the S2056 and T2609 clusters were maximally radiosensitive. Thus a synergism between the capacity for phosphorylation at the S2056 and T2609 clusters was found to be critical for induction of radiosensitivity.
Repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) is predominantly mediated by nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) in mammalian cells. NHEJ requires binding of the Ku70-Ku80 heterodimer (Ku70/80) to the DNA ends and subsequent recruitment of the DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKCS) and the XRCC4/ligase IV complex. Activation of the DNA-PKCS serine/threonine kinase requires an interaction with Ku70/80 and is essential for NHEJ-mediated DSB repair. In contrast to previous models, we found that the carboxy terminus of Ku80 is not absolutely required for the recruitment and activation of DNA-PKCS at DSBs, although cells that harbored a carboxy-terminal deletion in the Ku80 gene were sensitive to ionizing radiation and showed reduced end-joining capacity. More detailed analysis of this repair defect showed that DNA-PKCS autophosphorylation at Thr2647 was diminished, while Ser2056 was phosphorylated to normal levels. This resulted in severely reduced levels of Artemis nuclease activity in vivo and in vitro. We therefore conclude that the Ku80 carboxy terminus is important to support DNA-PKCS autophosphorylation at specific sites, which facilitates DNA end processing by the Artemis endonuclease and the subsequent joining reaction.
The DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKCS) plays an important role during the repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). It is recruited to DNA ends in the early stages of the nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) process, which mediates DSB repair. To study DNA-PKCS recruitment in vivo, we used a laser system to introduce DSBs in a specified region of the cell nucleus. We show that DNA-PKCS accumulates at DSB sites in a Ku80-dependent manner, and that neither the kinase activity nor the phosphorylation status of DNA-PKCS influences its initial accumulation. However, impairment of both of these functions results in deficient DSB repair and the maintained presence of DNA-PKCS at unrepaired DSBs. The use of photobleaching techniques allowed us to determine that the kinase activity and phosphorylation status of DNA-PKCS influence the stability of its binding to DNA ends. We suggest a model in which DNA-PKCS phosphorylation/autophosphorylation facilitates NHEJ by destabilizing the interaction of DNA-PKCS with the DNA ends.
The multi-subunit DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK), a crucial player in DNA repair by non-homologous end-joining in higher eukaryotes, consists of a catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) and the Ku heterodimer. Ku recruits DNA-PKcs to double-strand breaks, where DNA-PK assembles prior to DNA repair. The interaction of DNA-PK with DNA is regulated via autophosphorylation. Recent SAXS data addressed the conformational changes occurring in the purified catalytic subunit upon autophosphorylation. Here, we present the first structural analysis of the effects of autophosphorylation on the trimeric DNA-PK enzyme, performed by electron microscopy and single particle analysis. We observe a considerable degree of heterogeneity in the autophosphorylated material, which we resolved into subpopulations of intact complex, and separate DNA-PKcs and Ku, by using multivariate statistical analysis and multi-reference alignment on a partitioned particle image data set. The proportion of dimeric oligomers was reduced compared to non-phosphorylated complex, and those dimers remaining showed a substantial variation in mutual monomer orientation. Together, our data indicate a substantial remodelling of DNA-PK holo-enzyme upon autophosphorylation, which is crucial to the release of protein factors from a repaired DNA double-strand break.
DNA-PKcs and Ku are essential components of the complex that catalyzes non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). Ku, a heterodimeric protein, binds to DNA ends and facilitates recruitment of the catalytic subunit, DNA-PKcs. We have investigated the effect of DNA strand orientation and sequence bias on the activation of DNA-PK. In addition, we assessed the effect of the position and strand orientation of cisplatin adducts on kinase activation. A series of duplex DNA substrates with site-specific cisplatin–DNA adducts placed in three different orientations on the duplex DNA were prepared. Terminal biotin modification and streptavidin (SA) blocking was employed to direct DNA-PK binding to the unblocked termini with a specific DNA strand orientation and cisplatin–DNA adduct position. DNA-PK kinase activity was measured and the results reveal that DNA strand orientation and sequence bias dramatically influence kinase activation, only a portion of which could be attributed to Ku-DNA binding activity. In addition, cisplatin–DNA adduct position resulted in differing degrees of inhibition depending on distance from the terminus as well as strand orientation. These results highlight the importance of how local variations in DNA structure, chemistry and sequence influence DNA-PK activation and potentially NHEJ.
Two highly conserved double-strand break (DSB) repair pathways, homologous recombination (HR) and nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ), function in all eukaryotes. How a cell chooses which pathway to utilize is an area of active research and debate. During NHEJ, the DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) functions as a “gatekeeper” regulating DNA end access. Here, we provide evidence that DNA-PK regulates DNA end access via its own autophosphorylation. We demonstrated previously that autophosphorylation within a major cluster of sites likely mediates a conformational change that is critical for DNA end processing. Furthermore, blocking autophosphorylation at these sites inhibits a cell's ability to utilize the other major double-strand break repair pathway, HR. Here, we define a second major cluster of DNA-PK catalytic subunit autophosphorylation sites. Whereas blocking phosphorylation at the first cluster inhibits both end processing and HR, blocking phosphorylation at the second cluster enhances both. We conclude that separate DNA-PK autophosphorylation events may function reciprocally by not only regulating DNA end processing but also affecting DSB repair pathway choice.
Broken chromosomes arising from DNA double strand breaks result from endogenous events such as the production of reactive oxygen species during cellular metabolism, as well as from exogenous sources such as ionizing radiation1, 2, 3. Left unrepaired or incorrectly repaired they can lead to genomic changes that may result in cell death or cancer. DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK), a holo-enzyme that comprises DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs)4, 5 and the heterodimer Ku70/Ku80, plays a major role in non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), the main pathway in mammals used to repair double strand breaks6, 7, 8. DNA-PKcs is a serine/threonine protein kinase comprising a single polypeptide chain of 4128 amino acids and belonging to the phosphotidyl inositol 3-kinase (PI3-K)- related protein family9. DNA-PKcs is involved in the sensing and transmission of DNA damage signals to proteins such as p53, setting off events that lead to cell cycle arrest10, 11. It phosphorylates a wide range of substrates in vitro, including Ku70/Ku80, which is translocated along DNA12. Here we present the crystal structure of human DNA-PKcs at 6.6Å resolution, in which the overall fold is for the first time clearly visible. The many α-helical HEAT repeats (helix-turn-helix motifs) facilitate bending and allow the polypeptide chain to fold into a hollow circular structure. The C-terminal kinase domain is located on top of this structure and a small HEAT repeat domain that likely binds DNA is inside. The structure provides a flexible cradle to promote DNA double-strand-break repair.
DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are repaired by nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) and homologous recombination (HR). The NHEJ/HR decision is under complex regulation and involves DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PKcs). HR is elevated in DNA-PKcs null cells, but suppressed by DNA-PKcs kinase inhibitors, suggesting that kinase-inactive DNA-PKcs (DNA-PKcs-KR) would suppress HR. Here we use a direct repeat assay to monitor HR repair of DSBs induced by I-SceI nuclease. Surprisingly, DSB-induced HR in DNA-PKcs-KR cells was 2- to 3-fold above the elevated HR level of DNA-PKcs null cells, and ∼4- to 7-fold above cells expressing wild-type DNA-PKcs. The hyperrecombination in DNA-PKcs-KR cells compared to DNA-PKcs null cells was also apparent as increased resistance to DNA crosslinks induced by mitomycin C. ATM phosphorylates many HR proteins, and ATM is expressed at a low level in cells lacking DNA-PKcs, but restored to wild-type level in cells expressing DNA-PKcs-KR. Several clusters of phosphorylation sites in DNA-PKcs, including the T2609 cluster, which is phosphorylated by DNA-PKcs and ATM, regulate access of repair factors to broken ends. Our results indicate that ATM-dependent phosphorylation of DNA-PKcs-KR contributes to the hyperrecombination phenotype. Interestingly, DNA-PKcs null cells showed more persistent ionizing radiation-induced RAD51 foci (but lower HR levels) compared to DNA-PKcs-KR cells, consistent with HR completion requiring RAD51 turnover. ATM may promote RAD51 turnover, suggesting a second (not mutually exclusive) mechanism by which restored ATM contributes to hyperrecombination in DNA-PKcs-KR cells. We propose a model in which DNA-PKcs and ATM coordinately regulate DSB repair by NHEJ and HR.
DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs), a key component of the non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) pathway, is involved in DNA double-strand break repair, immunocompetence, genomic integrity, and epidermal growth factor receptor signaling. Clinical studies indicate that expression and activity of DNA-PKcs is correlated with cancer progression and response to treatment. Various anti-DNA-PKcs strategies have been developed and tested in preclinical studies to exploit the benefit of DNA-PKcs inhibition in sensitization of radiotherapy and in combined modality therapy with other antitumor agents. In this article, we review the association between DNA-PKcs and cancer development and discuss current approaches and mechanisms for inhibition of DNA-PKcs. The future challenges are to understand how DNA-PKcs activity is correlated with cancer susceptibility and to identify those patients who would most benefit from DNA-PKcs inhibition.
DNA damage; carcinogenesis; anti-DNA-PKcs strategies
Ionizing radiation induces DNA double-strand breaks which are repaired by the non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) pathway. NHEJ is initiated upon Ku binding to the DNA ends and facilitating an interaction with the DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs). This heterotrimeric DNA-PK complex is then active as a serine/threonine protein kinase. The molecular mechanisms involved in DNA-PK activation are unknown. Considering the crucial role of Ku in this process, we therefore determined the influence of DNA binding on the structure of the Ku heterodimer. Chemical modification with NHS-biotin and mass spectrometry was used to identify sites of modification. Biotinylation of free Ku revealed several reactive lysines on Ku70 and Ku80 which were reduced or eliminated upon DNA binding. Interestingly, in the predicted C-terminus SAP domain of Ku70, biotinylation patterns were observed which suggest a structural change in this region of the protein induced by DNA binding. Limited proteolytic digests of free and DNA-bound Ku revealed a series of unique peptides, again, indicative of a change in the accessibility of the Ku70 and Ku80 C-terminal domains. A 10 kDa peptide was also identified which was preferentially generated under non-DNA bound conditions and mapped to the Ku70 C-terminus. These results indicate a DNA-dependent movement or structural change in the C-terminal domains of Ku70 and Ku80 that may contribute to DNA-PKcs binding and activation. These results represent the first demonstration of DNA-induced changes in Ku structure and provide a framework for analysis of DNA-PKcs and the mechanism of DNA-PK activation.
The human MOF gene encodes a protein that specifically acetylates histone H4 at lysine 16 (H4K16ac). Here we show that reduced levels of H4K16ac correlate with a defective DNA damage response (DDR) and double-strand break (DSB) repair to ionizing radiation (IR). The defect, however, is not due to altered expression of proteins involved in DDR. Abrogation of IR-induced DDR by MOF depletion is inhibited by blocking H4K16ac deacetylation. MOF was found to be associated with the DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs), a protein involved in nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) repair. ATM-dependent IR-induced phosphorylation of DNA-PKcs was also abrogated in MOF-depleted cells. Our data indicate that MOF depletion greatly decreased DNA double-strand break repair by both NHEJ and homologous recombination (HR). In addition, MOF activity was associated with general chromatin upon DNA damage and colocalized with the synaptonemal complex in male meiocytes. We propose that MOF, through H4K16ac (histone code), has a critical role at multiple stages in the cellular DNA damage response and DSB repair.
The DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) plays an essential role in nonhomologous DNA end joining (NHEJ) by initially recognizing and binding to DNA breaks. We have shown that in vitro, purified DNA-PK undergoes autophosphorylation, resulting in loss of activity and disassembly of the kinase complex. Thus, we have suggested that autophosphorylation of the DNA-PK catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) may be critical for subsequent steps in DNA repair. Recently, we defined seven autophosphorylation sites within DNA-PKcs. Six of these are tightly clustered within 38 residues of the 4,127-residue protein. Here, we show that while phosphorylation at any single site within the major cluster is not critical for DNA-PK's function in vivo, mutation of several sites abolishes the ability of DNA-PK to function in NHEJ. This is not due to general defects in DNA-PK activity, as studies of the mutant protein indicate that its kinase activity and ability to form a complex with DNA-bound Ku remain largely unchanged. However, analysis of rare coding joints and ends demonstrates that nucleolytic end processing is dramatically reduced in joints mediated by the mutant DNA-PKcs. We therefore suggest that autophosphorylation within the major cluster mediates a conformational change in the DNA-PK complex that is critical for DNA end processing. However, autophosphorylation at these sites may not be sufficient for kinase disassembly.
The DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) complex, which is composed of a DNA-dependent kinase subunit (DNA-PKcs) and the Ku70/80 heterodimer, is involved in DNA double-strand break repair by non-homologous end joining (NHEJ). Ku70/80 interacts with the Werner syndrome protein (WRN) and stimulates WRN exonuclease activity. To investigate a possible function of WRN in NHEJ, we have examined the relationship between DNA-PKcs, Ku and WRN. First, we showed that WRN forms a complex with DNA-PKcs and Ku in solution. Next, we determined whether this complex assembles on DNA ends. Interestingly, the addition of WRN to a Ku:DNA-PKcs:DNA complex results in the displacement of DNA-PKcs from the DNA, indicating that the triple complex WRN:Ku:DNA-PKcs cannot form on DNA ends. The displacement of DNA-PKcs from DNA requires the N- and C-terminal regions of WRN, both of which make direct contact with the Ku70/80 heterodimer. Moreover, exonuclease assays indicate that DNA-PKcs does not protect DNA from the nucleolytic action of WRN. These results suggest that WRN may influence the mechanism by which DNA ends are processed.
DNA double strand breaks (DSB) are among the most lethal forms of DNA damage and, in humans, are repaired predominantly by the non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) pathway. NHEJ is initiated by the Ku70/80 heterodimer binding free DNA termini and then recruiting the DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) to form the catalytically active DNA-PK holoenzyme. The extreme C-terminus of Ku80 (Ku80CTD) has been shown to be important for in vitro stimulation of DNA-PK activity and NHEJ in vivo. To better define the mechanism by which the Ku80CTD elicits these activities, we assessed its functional and physical interactions with DNA-PKcs and Ku70/80. The results demonstrate that DNA-PKcs activity could not be complemented by addition of a Ku80CTD suggesting that the physical connection of the C-terminus to the DNA binding domain of Ku70/80 is required for DNA -PKcs activation. Analysis of protein-protein interactions revealed a low but measurable binding of the Ku80CTD for Ku70/80ΔC and for DNA-PKcs while dimer formation and the formation of higher ordered structures of the Ku80CTD was readily apparent. Ku has been shown to tether DNA termini possibly due to protein/protein interactions. Results demonstrate that the presence of the Ku80CTD stimulates this activity possibly through Ku80CTD/Ku80CTD interactions.
NHEJ; Ku; DNA-PK; chemical crosslinking; dimerization; DNA repair
Eukaryotic DNA is organized into nucleosomes and higher order chromatin structure, which plays an important role in the regulation of many nuclear processes including DNA repair. Non-homologous end-joining, the major pathway for repairing DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in mammalian cells, is mediated by a set of proteins including DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK). DNA-PK is comprised of a large catalytic subunit, DNA-PKcs, and its regulatory subunit, Ku. Current models predict that Ku binds to the ends of broken DNA and DNA-PKcs is recruited to form the active kinase complex. Here we show that DNA-PK can be activated by nucleosomes through the ability of Ku to bind to the ends of nucleosomal DNA, and that the activated DNA-PK is capable of phosphorylating H2AX within the nucleosomes. Histone acetylation has little effect on the steps of Ku binding to nucleosomes and subsequent activation of DNA-PKcs. However, acetylation largely enhances the phosphorylation of H2AX by DNA-PK, and this acetylation effect is observed when H2AX exists in the context of nucleosomes but not in a free form. These results suggest that the phosphorylation of H2AX, known to be important for DSB repair, can be regulated by acetylation and may provide a mechanistic basis on which to understand the recent observations that histone acetylation critically functions in repairing DNA DSBs.
Nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) is the major pathway for the repair of DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) in human cells. NHEJ requires the catalytic subunit of the DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PKcs), Ku70, Ku80, XRCC4, DNA ligase IV and Artemis, as well as DNA polymerases μ and λ and polynucleotide kinase. Recent studies have identified an additional participant, XLF, for XRCC4-like factor (also called Cernunnos), which interacts with the XRCC4-DNA ligase IV complex and stimulates its activity in vitro, however, its precise role in the DNA damage response is not fully understood. Since the protein kinase activity of DNA-PKcs is required for NHEJ, we asked whether XLF might be a physiological target of DNA-PK. Here, we have identified two major in vitro DNA-PK phosphorylation sites in the C-terminal region of XLF, serines 245 and 251. We show that these represent the major phosphorylation sites in XLF in vivo and that serine 245 is phosphorylated in vivo by DNA-PK, while serine 251 is phosphorylated by Ataxia-Telangiectasia Mutated (ATM). However, phosphorylation of XLF did not have a significant effect on the ability of XLF to interact with DNA in vitro or its recruitment to laser-induced DSBs in vivo. Similarly, XLF in which the identified in vivo phosphorylation sites were mutated to alanine was able to complement the DSB repair defect as well as radiation sensitivity in XLF-deficient 2BN cells. We conclude that phosphorylation of XLF at these sites does not play a major role in the repair of IR-induced DSBs in vivo.
XLF; DNA-PK; Phosphorylation; Nonhomologous end joining
DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) is an essential component of the nonhomologous end joining pathway (NHEJ), responsible for the repair of DNA double-strand breaks. Ku binds a DSB and recruits the catalytic subunit, DNA-PKcs, where it is activated once the kinase is bound to the DSB. The precise mechanism by which DNA activates DNA-PK remains unknown. We have investigated the effect of DNA structure on DNA-PK activation and results demonstrate that in Ku-dependent DNA-PKcs reactions, DNA-PK activation with DNA effectors containing two unannealed ends was identical to activation observed with fully duplex DNA effectors of the same length. The presence of a 6-base single-stranded extension resulted in decreased activation compared to the fully duplex DNA. DNA-PK activation using DNA effectors with compatible termini displayed increased activity compared to effectors with noncompatible termini. A strand orientation preference was observed in these reactions and suggests a model where the 3′ strand of the terminus is responsible for annealing and the 5′ strand is involved in activation of DNA-PK. These results demonstrate the influence of DNA structure and orientation on DNA-PK activation and provide a molecular mechanism of activation resulting from compatible termini, an essential step in microhomology-mediated NHEJ.
The DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) regulates the non-homologous end-joining pathway of DNA double-strand break repair in mammalian cells. The ability of DNA-PKcs to sense and respond to different terminal DNA structures is postulated to be important for its regulatory function. It is unclear whether discrimination occurs at the time of formation of the initial protein–DNA complex or later, at the time of formation of a paired, or synaptic complex between opposing DNA ends. To gain further insight into the mechanism of regulation, we characterized the binding of DNA-PKcs to immobilized DNA fragments that cannot undergo synapsis. Results showed that DNA-PKcs strongly discriminates between different terminal structures at the time of initial complex formation. Although Ku protein stabilizes DNA-PKcs binding overall, it is not required for discrimination between terminal structures. Base mispairing, temperature and the presence of an interstrand linkage influence the stability of the initial complex in a manner that suggests a requirement for DNA unwinding, reminiscent of the ‘open complex’ model of RNA polymerase–promoter DNA interaction. ATP and a nonhydrolyzable ATP analog also influence the stability of the DNA-PKcs•DNA complex, apparently by an allosteric mechanism that does not require DNA-PKcs autophosphorylation.