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1.  Polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) and protein phosphatase 6 (PP6) regulate DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) phosphorylation in mitosis 
Bioscience Reports  2014;34(3):e00113.
The protein kinase activity of the DNA-PKcs (DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit) and its autophosphorylation are critical for DBS (DNA double-strand break) repair via NHEJ (non-homologous end-joining). Recent studies have shown that depletion or inactivation of DNA-PKcs kinase activity also results in mitotic defects. DNA-PKcs is autophosphorylated on Ser2056, Thr2647 and Thr2609 in mitosis and phosphorylated DNA-PKcs localize to centrosomes, mitotic spindles and the midbody. DNA-PKcs also interacts with PP6 (protein phosphatase 6), and PP6 has been shown to dephosphorylate Aurora A kinase in mitosis. Here we report that DNA-PKcs is phosphorylated on Ser3205 and Thr3950 in mitosis. Phosphorylation of Thr3950 is DNA-PK-dependent, whereas phosphorylation of Ser3205 requires PLK1 (polo-like kinase 1). Moreover, PLK1 phosphorylates DNA-PKcs on Ser3205 in vitro and interacts with DNA-PKcs in mitosis. In addition, PP6 dephosphorylates DNA-PKcs at Ser3205 in mitosis and after IR (ionizing radiation). DNA-PKcs also phosphorylates Chk2 on Thr68 in mitosis and both phosphorylation of Chk2 and autophosphorylation of DNA-PKcs in mitosis occur in the apparent absence of Ku and DNA damage. Our findings provide mechanistic insight into the roles of DNA-PKcs and PP6 in mitosis and suggest that DNA-PKcs’ role in mitosis may be mechanistically distinct from its well-established role in NHEJ.
PLK1 (polo-like kinase 1) phosphorylates and PP6 (protein phosphatase 6) dephosphorylates DNA-PKcs (DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit) in mitosis. DNA-PKcs autophosphorylation and DNA-PKcs dependent phosphorylation of Chk2 in mitosis occur in the absence of Ku and DNA damage.
PMCID: PMC4069685  PMID: 24844881
DNA-dependent protein kinase; midbody; mitosis; polo-like protein kinase 1; protein phosphatase 6; ATM, ataxia telangiectasia mutated; Chk2, checkpoint kinase 2; DMEM, Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s medium; DNA-PKcs, DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit; DAPI, 4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole; DSB, DNA double-strand break; FHA, forkhead associated; GFP, green fluorescent protein; IR, ionizing radiation; MEM, Minimum Essential Medium Alpha; NHEJ, non-homologous end-joining; PIPES, 1,4-piperazinediethanesulfonic acid; PLK1, polo-like kinase-1; PP6, protein phosphatase 6; siRNA, small interfering RNA; TPX2, targeting protein for Xklp2
2.  Extensive ssDNA end formation at DNA double-strand breaks in non-homologous end-joining deficient cells during the S phase 
Efficient and correct repair of DNA damage, especially DNA double-strand breaks, is critical for cellular survival. Defects in the DNA repair may lead to cell death or genomic instability and development of cancer. Non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) is the major repair pathway for DNA double-strand breaks in mammalian cells. The ability of other repair pathways, such as homologous recombination, to compensate for loss of NHEJ and the ways in which contributions of different pathways are regulated are far from fully understood.
In this report we demonstrate that long single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) ends are formed at radiation-induced DNA double-strand breaks in NHEJ deficient cells. At repair times ≥ 1 h, processing of unrejoined DNA double-strand breaks generated extensive ssDNA at the DNA ends in cells lacking the NHEJ protein complexes DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) or DNA Ligase IV/XRCC4. The ssDNA formation was cell cycle dependent, since no ssDNA ends were observed in G1-synchronized NHEJ deficient cells. Furthermore, in wild type cells irradiated in the presence of DNA-PKcs (catalytic subunit of DNA-PK) inhibitors, or in DNA-PKcs deficient cells complemented with DNA-PKcs mutated in six autophosphorylation sites (ABCDE), no ssDNA was formed. The ssDNA generation also greatly influences DNA double-strand break quantification by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, resulting in overestimation of the DNA double-strand break repair capability in NHEJ deficient cells when standard protocols for preparing naked DNA (i. e., lysis at 50°C) are used.
We provide evidence that DNA Ligase IV/XRCC4 recruitment by DNA-PK to DNA double-strand breaks prevents the formation of long ssDNA ends at double-strand breaks during the S phase, indicating that NHEJ components may downregulate an alternative repair process where ssDNA ends are required.
PMCID: PMC2174948  PMID: 17963495
3.  Protein Phosphatase 6 Interacts with the DNA-Dependent Protein Kinase Catalytic Subunit and Dephosphorylates γ-H2AX▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2010;30(6):1368-1381.
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.
PMCID: PMC2832507  PMID: 20065038
4.  DNA-PKcs and ATM Co-Regulate DNA Double-Strand Break Repair 
DNA repair  2009;8(8):920-929.
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.
PMCID: PMC3071034  PMID: 19535303
5.  The DNA-Dependent Protein Kinase Catalytic Subunit Is Phosphorylated In Vivo on Threonine 3950, a Highly Conserved Amino Acid in the Protein Kinase Domain▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;27(5):1581-1591.
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.
PMCID: PMC1820444  PMID: 17158925
6.  Suppression of Non-Homologous End Joining Repair by Overexpression of HMGA2 
Cancer research  2009;69(14):5699-5706.
Understanding the molecular details associated with aberrant high mobility group A2 (HMGA2) gene expression is key to establishing the mechanism(s) underlying its oncogenic potential and impact on the development of therapeutic strategies. Here, we report the involvement of HMGA2 in impairing DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) during the non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) process. We demonstrated that HMGA2-expressing cells displayed deficiency in overall and precise DNA end-joining repair and accumulated more endogenous DNA damage. Proper and timely activation of DNA-PK, consisting of Ku70, Ku80 and DNA-PKcs subunits, is essential for the repair of DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) generated endogenously or by exposure to genotoxins. In cells overexpressing HMGA2, accumulation of histone 2A variant X phosphorylation at Ser-139 (γ-H2AX) was associated with hyper-phosphorylation of DNA-PKcs at Thr-2609 and Ser-2056 before and after the induction of DSBs. Also, the steady-state complex of Ku and DNA ends was altered by HMGA2. Microirradiation and real-time imaging in living cells revealed that HMGA2 delayed the release of DNA-PKcs from DSB sites, similar to observations found in DNA-PKcs mutants. Moreover, HMGA2 alone was sufficient to induce chromosomal aberrations, a hallmark of deficiency in NHEJ-mediated DNA repair. In summary, a novel role for HMGA2 to interfere with NHEJ processes was uncovered, implicating HMGA2 in the promotion of genome instability and tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC2737594  PMID: 19549901
HMGA2; Ku70/80; DNA-PKcs; NHEJ; genome instability
7.  Inactivation of DNA–Dependent Protein Kinase Promotes Heat–Induced Apoptosis Independently of Heat–Shock Protein Induction in Human Cancer Cell Lines 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58325.
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.
PMCID: PMC3594312  PMID: 23505488
8.  Autophosphorylation of DNA-PKCS regulates its dynamics at DNA double-strand breaks 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2007;177(2):219-229.
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.
PMCID: PMC2064131  PMID: 17438073
9.  Autophosphorylation-dependent remodeling of the DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit regulates ligation of DNA ends 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(14):4351-4357.
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.
PMCID: PMC514382  PMID: 15314205
10.  The Ku80 Carboxy Terminus Stimulates Joining and Artemis-Mediated Processing of DNA Ends▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2008;29(5):1134-1142.
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.
PMCID: PMC2643835  PMID: 19103741
11.  Enhanced Genotoxicity of Silver Nanoparticles in DNA Repair Deficient Mammalian Cells 
Frontiers in Genetics  2012;3:104.
Silver nanoparticles (Ag-np) have been used in medicine and commercially due to their anti-microbial properties. Therapeutic potentials of these nanoparticles are being explored extensively despite the lack of information on their mechanism of action at molecular and cellular level. Here, we have investigated the DNA damage response and repair following Ag-np treatment in mammalian cells. Studies have shown that Ag-np exerts genotoxicity through double-strand breaks (DSBs). DNA-PKcs, the catalytic subunit of DNA dependent protein kinase, is an important caretaker of the genome which is known to be the main player mediating Non-homologous End-Joining (NHEJ) repair pathway. We hypothesize that DNA-PKcs is responsible for the repair of Ag-np induced DNA damage. In vitro studies have been carried out to investigate both cytotoxicity and genotoxicity induced by Ag-np in normal human cells, DNA-PKcs proficient, and deficient mammalian cells. Chemical inhibition of DNA-PKcs activity with NU7026, an ATP-competitive inhibitor of DNA-PKcs, has been performed to further validate the role of DNA-PKcs in this model. Our results suggest that Ag-np induced more prominent dose-dependent decrease in cell viability in DNA-PKcs deficient or inhibited cells. The deficiency or inhibition of DNA-PKcs renders the cells with higher susceptibility to DNA damage and genome instability which in turn contributed to greater cell cycle arrest/cell death. These findings support the fact that DNA-PKcs is involved in the repair of Ag-np induced genotoxicity and NHEJ repair pathway and DNA-PKcs particularly is activated to safeguard the genome upon Ag-np exposure.
PMCID: PMC3374476  PMID: 22707954
silver nanoparticles; DNA damage and repair; genotoxicity; DNA-PKcs
12.  Unraveling the Complexities of DNA-Dependent Protein Kinase Autophosphorylation 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2014;34(12):2162-2175.
DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) orchestrates DNA repair by regulating access to breaks through autophosphorylations within two clusters of sites (ABCDE and PQR). Blocking ABCDE phosphorylation (by alanine mutation) imparts a dominant negative effect, rendering cells hypersensitive to agents that cause DNA double-strand breaks. Here, a mutational approach is used to address the mechanistic basis of this dominant negative effect. Blocking ABCDE phosphorylation hypersensitizes cells to most types of DNA damage (base damage, cross-links, breaks, and damage induced by replication stress), suggesting that DNA-PK binds DNA ends that result from many DNA lesions and that blocking ABCDE phosphorylation sequesters these DNA ends from other repair pathways. This dominant negative effect requires DNA-PK's catalytic activity, as well as phosphorylation of multiple (non-ABCDE) DNA-PK catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) sites. PSIPRED analysis indicates that the ABCDE sites are located in the only contiguous extended region of this huge protein that is predicted to be disordered, suggesting a regulatory role(s) and perhaps explaining the large impact ABCDE phosphorylation has on the enzyme's function. Moreover, additional sites in this disordered region contribute to the ABCDE cluster. These data, coupled with recent structural data, suggest a model whereby early phosphorylations promote initiation of nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ), whereas ABCDE phosphorylations, potentially located in a “hinge” region between the two domains, lead to regulated conformational changes that initially promote NHEJ and eventually disengage NHEJ.
PMCID: PMC4054291  PMID: 24687855
13.  SV40 Utilizes ATM Kinase Activity to Prevent Non-homologous End Joining of Broken Viral DNA Replication Products 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(12):e1004536.
Simian virus 40 (SV40) and cellular DNA replication rely on host ATM and ATR DNA damage signaling kinases to facilitate DNA repair and elicit cell cycle arrest following DNA damage. During SV40 DNA replication, ATM kinase activity prevents concatemerization of the viral genome whereas ATR activity prevents accumulation of aberrant genomes resulting from breakage of a moving replication fork as it converges with a stalled fork. However, the repair pathways that ATM and ATR orchestrate to prevent these aberrant SV40 DNA replication products are unclear. Using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and Southern blotting, we show that ATR kinase activity, but not DNA-PKcs kinase activity, facilitates some aspects of double strand break (DSB) repair when ATM is inhibited during SV40 infection. To clarify which repair factors associate with viral DNA replication centers, we examined the localization of DSB repair proteins in response to SV40 infection. Under normal conditions, viral replication centers exclusively associate with homology-directed repair (HDR) and do not colocalize with non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) factors. Following ATM inhibition, but not ATR inhibition, activated DNA-PKcs and KU70/80 accumulate at the viral replication centers while CtIP and BLM, proteins that initiate 5′ to 3′ end resection during HDR, become undetectable. Similar to what has been observed during cellular DSB repair in S phase, these data suggest that ATM kinase influences DSB repair pathway choice by preventing the recruitment of NHEJ factors to replicating viral DNA. These data may explain how ATM prevents concatemerization of the viral genome and promotes viral propagation. We suggest that inhibitors of DNA damage signaling and DNA repair could be used during infection to disrupt productive viral DNA replication.
Author Summary
Viruses from both Polyomaviridae and Papillomaviridae families share several characteristics. These include common modes of DNA replication and an accumulation of DNA damage signaling and repair proteins at replicating viral DNA. Several DNA repair proteins, with unknown functions during viral DNA replication, associate with the viral replication centers of the polyomavirus simian virus 40 (SV40). In this study we examined the mechanisms that regulate and recruit DNA repair machinery to replicating viral DNA during permissive SV40 infection. We found that the virus deploys DNA repair to broken viral DNA using cellular DNA damage signaling pathways. Our results shed light on why both Polyomaviridae and Papillomaviridae DNA replication elicits DNA damage signaling and repair. As no effective treatments currently exist for the Polyomaviridae family, our data identify pathways that might be therapeutically targeted to inhibit productive viral replication. Additionally, we categorize distinct functions for DNA repair and damage signaling pathways during viral replication. The results provide insights into how viruses exploit cellular processes to overwhelm the cell and propagate.
PMCID: PMC4256475  PMID: 25474690
14.  Radiosensitization and growth inhibition of cancer cells mediated by an scFv antibody gene against DNA-PKcs in vitro and in vivo 
Overexpression of DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) is commonly occurred in cancers and causes radioresistance and poor prognosis. In present study, the single-chain variable antibody fragments (scFv) targeting DNA-PKcs was developed for the application of radiosensitization in vitro and in vivo. A humanized semisynthetic scFv library and the phage-display antibodies technology were employed to screen DNA-PKcs scFv antibody.
DNA-PKcs epitopes were predicted and cloned. A humanized semisynthetic scFv library and the phage-display antibodies technology were employed to screen DNA-PKcs scFv antibody. DNA damage repair was analyzed by comet assay and immunofluorescence detection of γH2AX foci. The radiosensitization in vivo was determined on Balb/c athymic mice transplanted tumours of HeLa cells.
Four epitopes of DNA-PKcs have been predicted and expressed as the antigens, and a specific human anti-DNA-PKcs scFv antibody gene, anti-DPK3-scFv, was obtained by screening the phage antibody library using the DNA-PKcs peptide DPK3. The specificity of anti-DPK3-scFv was verified, in vitro. Transfection of HeLa cells with the anti-DPK3-scFv gene resulted in an increased sensitivity to IR, decreased repair capability of DNA double-strand breaks (DSB) detected by comet assay and immunofluorescence detection of γH2AX foci. Moreover, the kinase activity of DNA-PKcs was inhibited by anti-DPK3-scFv, which was displayed by the decreased phosphorylation levels of its target Akt/S473 and the autophosphorylation of DNA-PKcs on S2056 induced by radiation. Measurement of the growth and apoptosis rates showed that anti-DPK3-scFv enhanced the sensitivity of tumours transplanted in Balb/c athymic mice to radiation therapy.
The antiproliferation and radiosensitizing effects of anti-DPK3-scFv via targeting DNA-PKcs make it very appealing for the development as a novel biological radiosensitizer for cancer therapeutic potential.
PMCID: PMC2927608  PMID: 20704701
15.  Differential Role of DNA-PKcs Phosphorylations and Kinase Activity in Radiosensitivity and Chromosomal Instability 
Radiation research  2010;175(1):83-89.
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.
PMCID: PMC3073160  PMID: 21175350
16.  Scanning fluorescence correlation spectroscopy techniques to quantify the kinetics of DNA double strand break repair proteins after γ-irradiation and bleomycin treatment 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(1):e5.
A common feature of DNA repair proteins is their mobilization in response to DNA damage. The ability to visualizing and quantifying the kinetics of proteins localizing/dissociating from DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) via immunofluorescence or live cell fluorescence microscopy have been powerful tools in allowing insight into the DNA damage response, but these tools have some limitations. For example, a number of well-established DSB repair factors, in particular those required for non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), do not form discrete foci in response to DSBs induced by ionizing radiation (IR) or radiomimetic drugs, including bleomycin, in living cells. In this report, we show that time-dependent kinetics of the NHEJ factors Ku80 and DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunits (DNA–PKcs) in response to IR and bleomycin can be quantified by Number and Brightness analysis and Raster-scan Image Correlation Spectroscopy. Fluorescent-tagged Ku80 and DNA–PKcs quickly mobilized in response to IR and bleomycin treatments consistent with prior reports using laser-generated DSBs. The response was linearly dependent on IR dose, and blocking NHEJ enhanced immobilization of both Ku80 and DNA–PKcs after DNA damage. These findings support the idea of using Number and Brightness and Raster-scan Image Correlation Spectroscopy as methods to monitor kinetics of DSB repair proteins in living cells under conditions mimicking radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
PMCID: PMC3874206  PMID: 24137007
17.  Ku Regulates the Non-Homologous End Joining Pathway Choice of DNA Double-Strand Break Repair in Human Somatic Cells 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(2):e1000855.
The repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) is critical for the maintenance of genomic integrity and viability for all organisms. Mammals have evolved at least two genetically discrete ways to mediate DNA DSB repair: homologous recombination (HR) and non-homologous end joining (NHEJ). In mammalian cells, most DSBs are preferentially repaired by NHEJ. Recent work has demonstrated that NHEJ consists of at least two sub-pathways—the main Ku heterodimer-dependent or “classic” NHEJ (C-NHEJ) pathway and an “alternative” NHEJ (A-NHEJ) pathway, which usually generates microhomology-mediated signatures at repair junctions. In our study, recombinant adeno-associated virus knockout vectors were utilized to construct a series of isogenic human somatic cell lines deficient in the core C-NHEJ factors (Ku, DNA-PKcs, XLF, and LIGIV), and the resulting cell lines were characterized for their ability to carry out DNA DSB repair. The absence of DNA-PKcs, XLF, or LIGIV resulted in cell lines that were profoundly impaired in DNA DSB repair activity. Unexpectedly, Ku86-null cells showed wild-type levels of DNA DSB repair activity that was dominated by microhomology joining events indicative of A-NHEJ. Importantly, A-NHEJ DNA DSB repair activity could also be efficiently de-repressed in LIGIV-null and DNA-PKcs-null cells by subsequently reducing the level of Ku70. These studies demonstrate that in human cells C-NHEJ is the major DNA DSB repair pathway and they show that Ku is the critical C-NHEJ factor that regulates DNA NHEJ DSB pathway choice.
Author Summary
Humans utilize at least two major pathways to repair DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs): homologous recombination (HR) and non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), and there are at least two genetically discrete sub-pathways of NHEJ: classical-NHEJ (C-NHEJ) and alternative-NHEJ (A-NHEJ). Since the products generated by each of these three repair (sub)pathways differ substantially from one another, it is biologically critical that certain DSBs are repaired by certain DSB repair pathways. How this pathway choice is made in human cells was unclear. In this study, knockout human cell lines that are defective in core C-NHEJ factors were generated. These cell lines are by-and-large extremely deficient in DSB repair, proving that C-NHEJ is the major DSB repair pathway in human cells. Unexpectedly, cell lines reduced for the C-NHEJ factors Ku70 or Ku86, carried out proficient DSB repair because of hyperactive A-NHEJ. In published work we have also demonstrated that Ku suppresses HR throughout the genome and at telomeres. Collectively, these data imply that Ku ensures that C-NHEJ is the major DSB repair pathway by two mechanisms: i) enabling C-NHEJ and ii) by actively suppressing HR and A-NHEJ. Thus, Ku is the critical regulator of pathway choice in human somatic cells.
PMCID: PMC2829059  PMID: 20195511
18.  Topoisomerase II-Mediated DNA Damage Is Differently Repaired during the Cell Cycle by Non-Homologous End Joining and Homologous Recombination 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12541.
Topoisomerase II (Top2) is a nuclear enzyme involved in several metabolic processes of DNA. Chemotherapy agents that poison Top2 are known to induce persistent protein-mediated DNA double strand breaks (DSB). In this report, by using knock down experiments, we demonstrated that Top2α was largely responsible for the induction of γH2AX and cytotoxicity by the Top2 poisons idarubicin and etoposide in normal human cells. As DSB resulting from Top2 poisons-mediated damage may be repaired by non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) or homologous recombination (HR), we aimed to analyze both DNA repair pathways. We found that DNA-PKcs was rapidly activated in human cells, as evidenced by autophosphorylation at serine 2056, following Top2-mediated DNA damage. The chemical inhibition of DNA-PKcs by wortmannin and vanillin resulted in an increased accumulation of DNA DSB, as evaluated by the comet assay. This was supported by a hypersensitive phenotype to Top2 poisons of Ku80- and DNA-PKcs- defective Chinese hamster cell lines. We also showed that Rad51 protein levels, Rad51 foci formation and sister chromatid exchanges were increased in human cells following Top2-mediated DNA damage. In support, BRCA2- and Rad51C- defective Chinese hamster cells displayed hypersensitivity to Top2 poisons. The analysis by immunofluorescence of the DNA DSB repair response in synchronized human cell cultures revealed activation of DNA-PKcs throughout the cell cycle and Rad51 foci formation in S and late S/G2 cells. Additionally, we found an increase of DNA-PKcs-mediated residual repair events, but not Rad51 residual foci, into micronucleated and apoptotic cells. Therefore, we conclude that in human cells both NHEJ and HR are required, with cell cycle stage specificity, for the repair of Top2-mediated reversible DNA damage. Moreover, NHEJ-mediated residual repair events are more frequently associated to irreversibly damaged cells.
PMCID: PMC2932731  PMID: 20824055
19.  A structural model for regulation of NHEJ by DNA-PKcs autophosphorylation 
DNA repair  2010;9(12):1307-1314.
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.
PMCID: PMC3045832  PMID: 21030321
DNA-PKcs; non-homologous end joining; DNA double strand break repair; SAXS; phosphorylation
20.  DNA-PKcs Inhibition Sensitizes Cancer Cells to Carbon-Ion Irradiation via Telomere Capping Disruption 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72641.
Heavy-ion irradiation induces a higher frequency of DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) which must be properly repaired. Critical shortening of telomeres can trigger DNA damage responses such as DSBs. Telomeres are very sensitive to oxidative stress such as ionizing radiation. The DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) is the central component in the non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) repair complex and participates in telomere maintenance. Therefore, it is expected to enhance the cell killing effect of heavy-ion irradiation via DNA-PKcs inhibition. To test this hypothesis, cellular radiosensitivity was measured by the clonal genetic assay. DNA damage repair was relatively quantified by long PCR. Apoptosis was quantified by flow-cytometric analysis of annexin V/PI double staining, and senescence was analyzed by galactosidase activity. Telomere length was semi-quantified by real-time PCR. P53 and p21 expression was determined by western blotting. Our data demonstrated that MCF-7 and HeLa cells with DNA-PKcs inhibition were more susceptible to carbon-ion irradiation than Those without DNA-PKcs inhibition. Even though NHEJ was inhibited by the DNA-PKcs specific inhibitor, NU7026, most DNA damage induced by carbon-ion irradiation was repaired within 24 hours after irradiation in both cell lines. However, potential lethal damage repair (PLDR) could not restore cellular inactivation in DNA-PKcs inhibited cells. MCF-7 cells showed extensive senescence and accelerated telomere length reduction, while HeLa cells underwent significant apoptosis after irradiation with NU7026 incubation. In addition, both cell lines with shorter telomere were more susceptible to carbon-ion radiation. Our current data suggested that DNA-PKcs inhibition could enhance cellular sensitivity to carbon-ion radiation via disturbing its functional role in telomere end protection. The combination of DNA-PKcs inhibition and carbon-ion irradiation may be an efficient method of heavy-ion therapy.
PMCID: PMC3754927  PMID: 24013362
21.  ATR-Dependent Phosphorylation of DNA-Dependent Protein Kinase Catalytic Subunit in Response to UV-Induced Replication Stress▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(20):7520-7528.
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.
PMCID: PMC1636861  PMID: 16908529
22.  Crystal Structure of DNA-PKcs Reveals a Large Open-Ring Cradle Comprised of HEAT Repeats 
Nature  2009;463(7277):118-121.
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.
PMCID: PMC2811870  PMID: 20023628
23.  DNA-dependent protein kinase does not play a role in adaptive survival responses to ionizing radiation. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  1998;106(Suppl 1):301-305.
We previously demonstrated that exposure of certain human tumor cells to very low chronic doses of ionizing radiation led to their enhanced survival following exposure to subsequent high doses of radiation. Survival enhancement due to these adaptive survival responses (ASRs) ranged from 1.5-fold to 2.2-fold in many human tumor cells. Furthermore, we showed that ASRs result from altered G1 checkpoint regulation, possibly mediated by overexpression of cyclin D1, proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), and the X-ray induction of cyclin A. Because cyclin D1 and PCNA proteins are components of many DNA synthetic and repair processes in the cell, we tested the hypothesis that preexposure of cells to low doses of ionizing radiation enabled activation of the DNA repair machinery needed for survival recovery after high-dose radiation. We examined the role of DNA break repair in ASRs using murine cells deficient (i.e., severe combined immunodeficiency [SCID] cells) or proficient (i.e., parental mouse strain [CB-17] cells) in DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) expression and DNA double-strand break repair, DNA-PKcs is a nuclear serine/threonine protein kinase that is activated by DNA breaks and plays a key role in double-strand break repair. DNA-PKcs also phosphorylates several nuclear DNA-binding regulatory transcription factor proteins (e.g., Sp1 and p53), which suggests that DNA-PKcs may play a role in regulating transcription, replication, and recombination as well as DNA repair, after radiation. Therefore, we exposed confluent SCID or CB-17 cells to low priming doses of ionizing radiation (i.e., 5 cGy) and compared the survival responses of primed cells to those of unprimed cells after an equitoxic high-dose challenge. Low-dose-primed SCID or CB-17 cells demonstrated 2-fold enhanced survival after a high-dose challenge compared to that of unprimed control cells. These data suggest that expression of the catalytic subunit of DNA-PKcs (expressed in CB-17 not SCID cells) and the presence of active double-strand break repair processes (active in CB-17, deficient in SCID cells) do not play a major role in ASRs in mammalian cells. Furthermore, we present data that suggest that DNA-PKcs plays a role in the regulation of the G2/M cell cycle checkpoint following extremely high doses of ionizing radiation.
PMCID: PMC1533273  PMID: 9539023
24.  DNA-PK and ATM phosphorylation sites in XLF/Cernunnos are not required for repair of DNA double strand breaks 
DNA Repair  2008;7(10):1680-1692.
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.
PMCID: PMC3350819  PMID: 18644470
XLF; DNA-PK; Phosphorylation; Nonhomologous end joining
25.  DNA-Dependent Protein Kinase Catalytic Subunit Is Not Required for Dysfunctional Telomere Fusion and Checkpoint Response in the Telomerase-Deficient Mouse▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;27(6):2253-2265.
Telomeres are key structural elements for the protection and maintenance of linear chromosomes, and they function to prevent recognition of chromosomal ends as DNA double-stranded breaks. Loss of telomere capping function brought about by telomerase deficiency and gradual erosion of telomere ends or by experimental disruption of higher-order telomere structure culminates in the fusion of defective telomeres and/or the activation of DNA damage checkpoints. Previous work has implicated the nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) DNA repair pathway as a critical mediator of these biological processes. Here, employing the telomerase-deficient mouse model, we tested whether the NHEJ component DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) was required for fusion of eroded/dysfunctional telomere ends and the telomere checkpoint responses. In late-generation mTerc−/− DNA-PKcs−/− cells and tissues, chromosomal end-to-end fusions and anaphase bridges were readily evident. Notably, nullizygosity for DNA Ligase4 (Lig4)—an additional crucial NHEJ component—was also permissive for chromosome fusions in mTerc−/− cells, indicating that, in contrast to results seen with experimental disruption of telomere structure, telomere dysfunction in the context of gradual telomere erosion can engage additional DNA repair pathways. Furthermore, we found that DNA-PKcs deficiency does not reduce apoptosis, tissue atrophy, or p53 activation in late-generation mTerc−/− tissues but rather moderately exacerbates germ cell apoptosis and testicular degeneration. Thus, our studies indicate that the NHEJ components, DNA-PKcs and Lig4, are not required for fusion of critically shortened telomeric ends and that DNA-PKcs is not required for sensing and executing the telomere checkpoint response, findings consistent with the consensus view of the limited role of DNA-PKcs in DNA damage signaling in general.
PMCID: PMC1820500  PMID: 17145779

Results 1-25 (1010200)