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1.  Nuclear Survivin and Its Relationship to DNA Damage Repair Genes in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Investigated Using Tissue Array 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74161.
To investigate the predictive role and association of nuclear survivin and the DNA double-strand breaks repair genes in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs), Ku heterodimeric regulatory complex 70-KD subunit (Ku70) and ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM).
The protein expression of nuclear survivin, DNA-PKcs, Ku70 and ATM were investigated using immunohistochemistry in tumors from 256 patients with surgically resected NSCLC. Furthermore, we analyzed the correlation between the expression of nuclear survivin, DNA-PKcs, Ku70 and ATM. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to determine the prognostic factors that inuenced the overall survival and disease-free survival of NSCLC.
The expression of nuclear survivin, DNA-PKcs, Ku70 and ATM was significantly higher in tumor tissues than in normal tissues. By dichotomizing the specimens as expressing low or high levels of nuclear survivin, nuclear survivin correlated significantly with the pathologic stage (P = 0.009) and lymph node status (P = 0.004). The nuclear survivin levels were an independent prognostic factor for both the overall survival and the disease-free survival in univariate and multivariate analyses. Patients with low Ku70 and DNA-PKcs expression had a greater benefit from radiotherapy than patients with high expression of Ku70 (P = 0.012) and DNA-PKcs (P = 0.02). Nuclear survivin expression positively correlated with DNA-PKcs (P<0.001) and Ku70 expression (P<0.001).
Nuclear survivin may be a prognostic factor for overall survival in patients with resected stage I-IIIA NSCLC. DNA-PKcs and Ku70 could predict the effect of radiotherapy in patients with NSCLC. Nuclear survivin may also stimulates DNA double-strand breaks repair by its interaction with DNA-PKcs and Ku70.
PMCID: PMC3774659  PMID: 24066112
2.  Threonine 2609 phosphorylation of the DNA-dependent Protein Kinase is a critical prerequisite for epidermal growth factor receptor mediated radiation resistance 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2012;10(10):1359-1368.
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) contributes to tumor radioresistance, in part, through interactions with the catalytic subunit of DNA-dependent Protein Kinase (DNA-PKcs), a key enzyme in the non homologous end joining DNA repair pathway. We previously demonstrated that EGFR-DNA-PKcs interactions are significantly compromised in the context of activating mutations in EGFR in non small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) and human bronchial epithelial cells. Here, we investigate the reciprocal relationship between phosphorylation status of DNA-PKcs and EGFR-mediated radiation response. The data reveal that both the kinase activity of DNA-PKcs and radiation-induced phosphorylation of DNA-PKcs by the Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated (ATM) kinase are critical prerequisites for EGFR-mediated radioresponse. Alanine substitutions at 7 key serine/threonine residues in DNA-PKcs or inhibition of DNA-PKcs by NU7441 completely abrogated EGFR-mediated radioresponse and blocked EGFR binding. ATM-deficiency or ATM inhibition with KU55933 produced a similar effect. Importantly, alanine substitution at an ATM-dependent DNA-PKcs phosphorylation site, T2609, was sufficient to block binding or radioresponse of EGFR. However, mutation of a DNA-PKcs auto-phosphorylation site, S2056 had no such effect indicating that DNA-PKcs auto-phosphorylation is not necessary for EGFR-mediated radioresponse. Our data reveal that in both NSCLCs and HBECs, activating mutations in EGFR specifically abolished the DNA-PKcs phosphorylation at T2609, but not S2056. Our study underscores the critical importance of a reciprocal relationship between DNA-PKcs phosphorylation and EGFR mediated radiation response and elucidates mechanisms underlying mutant EGFR associated radiosensitivity in NSCLCs.
PMCID: PMC3475795  PMID: 22923485
3.  Aberrant DNA Methylation of OLIG1, a Novel Prognostic Factor in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(3):e108.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Currently, tumor, node, metastasis (TNM) staging provides the most accurate prognostic parameter for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, the overall survival of patients with resectable tumors varies significantly, indicating the need for additional prognostic factors to better predict the outcome of the disease, particularly within a given TNM subset.
Methods and Findings
In this study, we investigated whether adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas could be differentiated based on their global aberrant DNA methylation patterns. We performed restriction landmark genomic scanning on 40 patient samples and identified 47 DNA methylation targets that together could distinguish the two lung cancer subgroups. The protein expression of one of those targets, oligodendrocyte transcription factor 1 (OLIG1), significantly correlated with survival in NSCLC patients, as shown by univariate and multivariate analyses. Furthermore, the hazard ratio for patients negative for OLIG1 protein was significantly higher than the one for those patients expressing the protein, even at low levels.
Multivariate analyses of our data confirmed that OLIG1 protein expression significantly correlates with overall survival in NSCLC patients, with a relative risk of 0.84 (95% confidence interval 0.77–0.91, p < 0.001) along with T and N stages, as indicated by a Cox proportional hazard model. Taken together, our results suggests that OLIG1 protein expression could be utilized as a novel prognostic factor, which could aid in deciding which NSCLC patients might benefit from more aggressive therapy. This is potentially of great significance, as the addition of postoperative adjuvant chemotherapy in T2N0 NSCLC patients is still controversial.
Christopher Plass and colleagues find thatOLIG1 expression correlates with survival in lung cancer patients and suggest that it could be used in deciding which patients are likely to benefit from more aggressive therapy.
Editors' Summary
Lung cancer is the commonest cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Most cases are of a type called non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Like other cancers, treatment of NCSLC depends on the “TNM stage” at which the cancer is detected. Staging takes into account the size and local spread of the tumor (its T classification), whether nearby lymph nodes contain tumor cells (its N classification), and whether tumor cells have spread (metastasized) throughout the body (its M classification). Stage I tumors are confined to the lung and are removed surgically. Stage II tumors have spread to nearby lymph nodes and are treated with a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Stage III tumors have spread throughout the chest, and stage IV tumors have metastasized around the body; patients with both of these stages are treated with chemotherapy alone. About 70% of patients with stage I or II lung cancer, but only 2% of patients with stage IV lung cancer, survive for five years after diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
TNM staging is the best way to predict the likely outcome (prognosis) for patients with NSCLC, but survival times for patients with stage I and II tumors vary widely. Another prognostic marker—maybe a “molecular signature”—that could distinguish patients who are likely to respond to treatment from those whose cancer will inevitably progress would be very useful. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells divide uncontrollably and can move around the body. These behavioral changes are caused by alterations in the pattern of proteins expressed by the cells. But what causes these alterations? The answer in some cases is “epigenetic changes” or chemical modifications of genes. In cancer cells, methyl groups are aberrantly added to GC-rich gene regions. These so-called “CpG islands” lie near gene promoters (sequences that control the transcription of DNA into mRNA, the template for protein production), and their methylation stops the promoters working and silences the gene. In this study, the researchers have investigated whether aberrant methylation patterns vary between NSCLC subtypes and whether specific aberrant methylations are associated with survival and can, therefore, be used prognostically.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used “restriction landmark genomic scanning” (RLGS) to catalog global aberrant DNA methylation patterns in human lung tumor samples. In RLGS, DNA is cut into fragments with a restriction enzyme (a protein that cuts at specific DNA sequences), end-labeled, and separated using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis to give a pattern of spots. Because methylation stops some restriction enzymes cutting their target sequence, normal lung tissue and lung tumor samples yield different patterns of spots. The researchers used these patterns to identify 47 DNA methylation targets (many in CpG islands) that together distinguished between adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, two major types of NSCLCs. Next, they measured mRNA production from the genes with the greatest difference in methylation between adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. OLIG1 (the gene that encodes a protein involved in nerve cell development) had one of the highest differences in mRNA production between these tumor types. Furthermore, three-quarters of NSCLCs had reduced or no expression of OLIG1 protein and, when the researchers analyzed the association between OLIG1 protein expression and overall survival in patients with NSCLC, reduced OLIG1 protein expression was associated with reduced survival.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that different types of NSCLC can be distinguished by examining their aberrant methylation patterns. This suggests that the establishment of different DNA methylation patterns might be related to the cell type from which the tumors developed. Alternatively, the different aberrant methylation patterns might reflect the different routes that these cells take to becoming tumor cells. This research identifies a potential new prognostic marker for NSCLC by showing that OLIG1 protein expression correlates with overall survival in patients with NSCLC. This correlation needs to be tested in a clinical setting to see if adding OLIG1 expression to the current prognostic parameters can lead to better treatment choices for early-stage lung cancer patients and ultimately improve these patients' overall survival.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Patient and professional information on lung cancer, including staging (in English and Spanish), is available from the US National Cancer Institute
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has pages on non-small cell lung cancer (in English and Spanish)
Cancerbackup provides patient information on lung cancer
CancerQuest, provided by Emory University, has information about how cancer develops (in English, Spanish, Chinese and Russian)
Wikipedia pages on epigenetics (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
The Epigenome Network of Excellence gives background information and the latest news about epigenetics (in several European languages)
PMCID: PMC1831740  PMID: 17388669
4.  ATM activation accompanies histone H2AX phosphorylation in A549 cells upon exposure to tobacco smoke 
BMC Cell Biology  2007;8:26.
In response to DNA damage or structural alterations of chromatin, histone H2AX may be phosphorylated on Ser139 by phosphoinositide 3-kinase related protein kinases (PIKKs) such as ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM), ATM-and Rad-3 related (ATR) kinase, or by DNA dependent protein kinase (DNA-PKcs). When DNA damage primarily involves formation of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), H2AX is preferentially phosphorylated by ATM rather than by the other PIKKs. We have recently reported that brief exposure of human pulmonary adenocarcinoma A549 cells or normal human bronchial epithelial cells (NHBE) to cigarette smoke (CS) induced phosphorylation of H2AX.
We report here that H2AX phosphorylation in A549 cells induced by CS was accompanied by activation of ATM, as revealed by ATM phosphorylation on Ser1981 (ATM-S1981P) detected immunocytochemically and by Western blotting. No cell cycle-phase specific differences in kinetics of ATM activation and H2AX phosphorylation were observed. When cells were exposed to CS from cigarettes with different tobacco and filter combinations, the expression levels of ATM-S1981P correlated well with the increase in expression of phosphorylated H2AX (γH2AX) (R = 0.89). In addition, we note that while CS-induced γH2AX expression was localized within discrete foci, the activated ATM was distributed throughout the nucleoplasm.
These data implicate ATM as the PIKK that phosphorylates H2AX in response to DNA damage caused by CS. Based on current understanding of ATM activation, expression and localization, these data would suggest that, in addition to inducing potentially carcinogenic DSB lesions, CS may also trigger other types of DNA lesions and cause chromatin alterations. As checkpoint kinase (Chk) 1, Chk2 and the p53 tumor suppressor gene are known to be phosphorylated by ATM, the present data indicate that exposure to CS may lead to their phosphorylation, with the downstream consequences related to the halt in cell cycle progression and increased propensity to undergo apoptosis. Defining the nature and temporal sequence of molecular events that are disrupted by CS through activation and eventual dysregulation of normal defense mechanisms such as ATM and its downstream effectors may allow a more precise understanding of how CS promotes cancer development.
PMCID: PMC1919366  PMID: 17594478
5.  MiR-210 expression reverses radioresistance of stem-like cells of oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma 
World Journal of Clinical Oncology  2014;5(5):1068-1077.
AIM: To investigate the expression of miR-210 and the role it plays in the cell cycle to regulate radioresistance in oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC).
METHODS: MiR-210 expression was evaluated in 37 pairs of ESCC tissues and matched para-tumorous normal oesophageal tissues from surgical patients who had not received neoadjuvant therapy, and in the cells of two novel radioresistant cell lines, TE-1R and Eca-109R, using quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). The transient up-regulation of miR-210 expression in TE-1R and Eca-109R cells was studied using liposomes and was confirmed using qRT-PCR. The rate of cell survival after a series of radio-treatment doses was evaluated using the clone formation assay. Flow cytometry was used to detect the changes to the cell cycle patterns due to radiation treatment. RT-PCR and Western blot were used to detect the expression of ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) and DNA dependent protein kinase (DNA-PKcs) after irradiation, and the cell sphere formation assay was used to evaluate the proliferative ability of the cancer stem-like cells.
RESULTS: The level of miR-210 expression was significantly decreased, by 21.3% to 97.2%, with the average being 39.2% ± 16.1%, in the ESCC tissues of most patients (81.1%, 30 of 37 vs patients with high miR-210 expression, P < 0.05). A low level of expression of miR-210 was correlated with a poorly differentiated pathological type (P < 0.01) but was not correlated with the T-stage or lymph node infiltration (both P > 0.05). Early local recurrences (< 18 mo, n = 19) after radiotherapy were significantly related with low miR-210 expression (n = 13, P < 0.05). The level of miR-210 was decreased by approximately 73% (vs TE-1, 0.27 ± 0.10, P < 0.01) in the established radioresistant TE-IR cell line and by 52% (vs Eca-109, 0.48 ± 0.17, P < 0.05) in the corresponding Eca-109R line. Transient transfection with a miR-210 precursor increased the level of miR-210 expression, leading to a significant increase in cell survival after radiotherapy (P < 0.05). Twenty-four hours after radiation, the proportion of pmiR-210 cells in S phase was increased (vs control cells, 30.4% ± 0.4%, and vs untreated TE-1R cells, 23.3% ± 0.7%, P < 0.05 for both). The levels of DNA-PKcs (0.21 ± 0.07) and ATM (0.12 ± 0.03, P < 0.05) proteins were significantly lower in the PmiR-210 cells than in control cells, but no differences were found in the levels of the corresponding mRNAs in the two cell types (P > 0.05 for all). Exogenous miR-210 expression decreased the diameter of pmiR-210 cell spheres (vs control cells, 0.60 ± 0.14, P < 0.05).
CONCLUSION: MiR-210 expression is negatively correlated with the pathological type and the local survival rate after radiotherapy, and high expression of miR-210 may reverse the radioresistance of ESCC stem-like cells.
PMCID: PMC4259934  PMID: 25493243
MiR-210; Oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma; Radiation resistance; Cell cycle arrest; Stem-like cells
6.  Prognostic significance of G2/M arrest signaling pathway proteins in advanced non-small cell lung cancer patients 
Oncology Letters  2015;9(3):1266-1272.
The aim of the present study was to retrospectively assess the correlation between the expression levels of proteins involved in G2/M arrest signaling pathways in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tissue, as determined by immunohistochemical (IHC) methods, and the overall survival of patients with advanced stage NSCLC. IHC analysis of advanced NSCLC specimens was used to determine the expression levels of proteins involved in G2/M arrest signaling pathways, including ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) kinase, ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3-related (ATR) kinase, checkpoint kinase (Chk) 1, Chk2, cell division cycle 25C (Cdc25C), total cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (Cdk1) and active Cdk1 signaling pathways, the latter of which refers to dephospho-Cdk1 (Tyr15) and phospho-Cdk1 (Thr161). Patients were enrolled continuously and followed up for ≥2 years. Univariate analysis demonstrated that the protein expression levels of dephospho-Cdk1 (P=0.015) and phospho-Cdk1 (P=0.012) exhibited prognostic significance, while the expression of the other proteins was not significantly associated with patient survival (ATM, P=0.843; ATR, P=0.245; Chk1, P=0.341; Chk2, P=0.559; Cdc25C, P=0.649; total Cdk1, P=0.093). Furthermore, the patients with tumors exhibiting low expression levels of active Cdk1 survived significantly longer than those with tumors exhibiting high active Cdk1 expression levels (P<0.05). In addition, Cox regression analysis demonstrated that the expression of active Cdk1 [odds ratio (OR), 0.624; 95% confidence ratio (CI), 0.400–0.973; P=0.038] and the pathological tumor-node-metastasis stage (OR, 0.515; 95% CI, 0.297–0.894; P=0.018) were significant independent prognostic factors for NSCLC. Therefore, the results of the present study indicated that active Cdk1 protein is an independent prognostic factor for advanced NSCLC and may validate Cdk1 as a therapeutic target for advanced NSCLC patients.
PMCID: PMC4315004  PMID: 25663895
G2/M arrest; advanced non-small cell lung cancer; prognostic biomarkers; molecular pathology
7.  MicroRNA-18a Attenuates DNA Damage Repair through Suppressing the Expression of Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated in Colorectal Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57036.
miR-18a is one of the most up-regulated miRNAs in colorectal cancers (CRC) based on miRNA profiling. In this study, we examined the functional significance of miR-18a in CRC.
Expression of miR-18a was investigated in 45 CRC patients. Potential target genes of miR-18a were predicted by in silico search and confirmed by luciferase activity assay and Western blot. DNA damage was measured by comet assay. Gene function was measured by cell viability, colony formation and apoptosis assays.
The up-regulation of miR-18a was validated and confirmed in 45 primary CRC tumors compared with adjacent normal tissues (p<0.0001). Through in silico search, the 3′UTR of Ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) contains a conserved miR-18a binding site. Expression of ATM was down-regulated in CRC tumors (p<0.0001) and inversely correlated with miR-18a expression (r = -0.4562, p<0.01). Over-expression of miR-18a in colon cancer cells significantly reduced the luciferase activity of the construct with wild-type ATM 3′UTR but not that with mutant ATM 3′UTR, inferring a direct interaction of miR-18a with ATM 3′UTR. This was further confirmed by the down-regulation of ATM protein by miR-18a. As ATM is a key enzyme in DNA damage repair, we evaluated the effect of miR-18a on DNA double-strand breaks. Ectopic expression of miR-18a significantly inhibited the repair of DNA damage induced by etoposide (p<0.001), leading to accumulation of DNA damage, increase in cell apoptosis and poor clonogenic survival.
miR-18a attenuates cellular repair of DNA double-strand breaks by directly suppressing ATM, a key enzyme in DNA damage repair.
PMCID: PMC3578802  PMID: 23437304
8.  Prognostic significance of CDH13 hypermethylation and mRNA in NSCLC 
OncoTargets and therapy  2014;7:1987-1996.
Aberrant methylation of CpG dinucleotides is a commonly observed epigenetic modification in human cancer. Thus, detection of aberrant gene promoter methylation as a tool for diagnosis of tumors or as a prognostic marker has been widely described for many types of cancers, including nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Emerging evidence indicates that CDH13 is a candidate tumor suppressor in several types of human tumors, including NSCLC. However, the correlation between CDH13 hypermethylation and clinicopathological characteristics of NSCLC remains unclear. In the current study, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to quantitatively evaluate the effects of CDH13 hypermethylation on the incidence of NSCLC and clinicopathological characteristics. Final analysis of 803 NSCLC patients from eleven eligible studies was performed. CDH13 hypermethylation was observed to be significantly higher in NSCLC than in normal lung tissue, with the pooled odds ratio (OR) from seven studies including 448 NSCLC and 345 normal lung tissue (OR, 7.85; 95% confidence interval, 5.12–12.03; P<0.00001). CDH13 hypermethylation was also associated with pathological types. The pooled OR was obtained from four studies, including 111 squamous cell carcinoma and 106 adenocarcinoma (OR, 0.35; 95% confidence interval, 0.19–0.66; P=0.001), which indicated that CDH13 hypermethylation plays a more important role in the pathogenesis of adenocarcinoma. NSCLC with CDH13 hypermethylation was found more frequently in poorly differentiated NSCLC patients. NSCLC patients with CDH13 hypermethylation had a lower survival rate than those without CDH13 hypermethylation. In addition, CDH13 mRNA high expression was found to correlate with better overall survival for all NSCLC patients followed for 20 years (hazard ratio, 0.81; P=0.0056). Interestingly, CDH13 mRNA overexpression was found to correlate with better overall survival only in adenocarcinoma patients (hazard ratio, 0.42; P=9.6e–09), not in squamous cell carcinoma patients (hazard ratio, 0.93; P=0.59). The results of this meta-analysis suggest that CDH13 hypermethylation is associated with an increased risk and worse survival in NSCLC. CDH13 hypermethylation and mRNA expression play an important role in carcinogenesis, progression, and development, as well as clinical outcomes.
PMCID: PMC4222896  PMID: 25382980
prognosis; methylation; lung cancer; tumor suppressor gene; meta-analysis; odds ratio; hazard ratio
9.  ATM–Dependent MiR-335 Targets CtIP and Modulates the DNA Damage Response 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(5):e1003505.
ATM plays a critical role in cellular responses to DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). We describe a new ATM–mediated DSB–induced DNA damage response pathway involving microRNA (miRNA): irradiation (IR)-induced DSBs activate ATM, which leads to the downregulation of miR-335, a miRNA that targets CtIP, which is an important trigger of DNA end resection in homologous recombination repair (HRR). We demonstrate that CREB is responsible for a large portion of miR-335 expression by binding to the promoter region of miR-335. CREB binding is greatly reduced after IR, corroborating with previous studies that IR-activated ATM phosphorylates CREB to reduce its transcription activity. Overexpression of miR-335 in HeLa cells resulted in reduced CtIP levels and post-IR colony survival and BRCA1 foci formation. Further, in two patient-derived lymphoblastoid cell lines with decreased post-IR colony survival, a “radiosensitive” phenotype, we demonstrated elevated miR-335 expression, reduced CtIP levels, and reduced BRCA1 foci formation. Colony survival, BRCA1 foci, and CtIP levels were partially rescued by miRNA antisense AMO-miR-335 treatment. Taken together, these findings strongly suggest that an ATM–dependent CREB–miR-335–CtIP axis influences the selection of HRR for repair of certain DSB lesions.
Author Summary
ATM (Ataxia-Telangiectasia Mutated) serine/threonine kinase plays a critical role in coordinating the cellular response to DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), such as cell cycle checkpoint, DNA repair, and apoptosis. miRNAs have been reported to be involved in many cellular processes, and their role in DSB–triggered DNA damage response (DDR) is just being elucidated. Here we describe a novel DSB response mechanism whereby ATM–dependent miR-335 downregulates CtIP. CtIP is a multifunctional protein that is crucial for DNA homologous recombination repair; and we show, for the first time, that this protein is subject to miRNA downregulation. CtIP downregulation was verified in cell lines from radiosensitive patients, and we demonstrate that this pathway contributes to radiosensitization and DNA repair defects in BRCA1 foci formation and cell cycle checkpoint. Given that miR-335 is also a tumor metastasis suppressor, our finding suggests that miR-335 overexpression could not only increase tumor sensitivity to radiation or chemical therapy but also inhibit tumor metastasis or re-initiation of tumor growth.
PMCID: PMC3656122  PMID: 23696749
10.  ATM localization and gene expression in the adult mouse eye 
Molecular Vision  2009;15:393-416.
High levels of metabolism and oxygen consumption in most adult murine ocular compartments, combined with exposure to light and ultraviolet (UV) radiation, are major sources of oxidative stress, causing DNA damage in ocular cells. Of all mammalian body cells, photoreceptor cells consume the largest amount of oxygen and generate the highest levels of oxidative damage. The accumulation of such damage throughout life is a major factor of aging tissues. Several multiprotein complexes have recently been identified as the major sensors and mediators involved in the maintenance of DNA integrity. The activity of these complexes initially seemed to be restricted to dividing cells, given their ultimate role in major cell cycle checkpoints. However, it was later established that they are also active in post-mitotic cells. Recent findings demonstrate that the DNA damage response (DDR) is essential for the development, maintenance, and normal functioning of the adult central nervous system. One major molecular factor in the DDR is the protein, ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM). It is required for the rapid induction of cellular responses to DNA double-strand breaks. These cytotoxic DNA lesions may be caused by oxidative damage. To understand how ATM prevents oxidative stress and participates in the maintenance of genomic integrity and cell viability of the adult retina, we determined the ATM expression patterns and studied its localization in the adult mouse eye.
Atm gene expression was analyzed by RT–PCR experiments and its localization by in situ hybridization on adult mouse ocular and cerebellar tissue sections. ATM protein expression was determined by western blot analysis of proteins homogenates extracted from several mouse tissues and its localization by immunohistochemistry experiments performed on adult mouse ocular and cerebellar tissue sections. In addition, subcellular localization was realized by confocal microscopy imaging of ocular tissue sections, with a special focus on retinal cells.
Using RT–PCR, we detected a band of the expected size, with its sequence matching the amplified Atm cDNA sequence. Atm mRNA was detected in most cell bodies of the adult mouse eye by in situ hybridization of ocular tissue sections with specific digoxigenin-labeled PCR-amplified cDNA probes. Western blotting with different specific antibodies revealed bands corresponding to the expected sizes of ATM and its active forms (ATMp). These bands were not observed in the analysis of protein homogenates from Atm-deficient mouse tissues. ATM immunoreactivity was detected in the nucleus of all adult mice retinal cells and in most non-neuronal ocular cell types. The active phosphorylated form of ATM was also present in the retina as well as in non-neuronal cells of the adult mouse eye. However, its subcellular localization differed as a function of the cell type examined. A major finding of this study was that ATMp immunostaining in photoreceptor cells was exclusively in the cytoplasm, whereas ATM immunostaining was only in the nucleus of these cells. Furthermore, the specific and distinct ATM and ATMp immunolabeling patterns in photoreceptor cells were identical to those observed in the adult mouse cerebellar granule cells.
We report the expression profile of Atm gene and protein in the adult mouse eye. In particular, we observed a difference between the localization patterns of the active and inactive forms of ATM in photoreceptor cells. These localization patterns suggest that ATM and its phosphorylated activated form may be involved in both the protection of cells from oxidative damage and the maintenance of ocular cell structure and function. The protection mechanisms mediated by the two forms of ATM appear to be particularly important in maintaining photoreceptor integrity.
PMCID: PMC2645907  PMID: 19234633
11.  Molecular Imaging of the ATM Kinase Activity 
Ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) is a serine/threonine kinase critical to the cellular DNA-damage response, including from DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). ATM activation results in the initiation of a complex cascade of events including DNA damage repair, cell cycle checkpoint control, and survival. We sought to create a bioluminescent reporter that dynamically and non-invasively measures ATM kinase activity in living cells and subjects.
Methods and Materials
Using the split luciferase technology we constructed a hybrid cDNA, ATM-reporter (ATMR), coding for a protein that quantitatively reports on changes in ATM kinase activity through changes in bioluminescence.
Treatment of ATMR expressing cells with ATM inhibitors resulted in a dose dependent increase in bioluminescence activity. In contrast, induction of ATM kinase activity upon irradiation resulted in a decrease in reporter activity that correlated with ATM and Chk2 activation by immunoblotting in a time-dependent fashion. Nuclear targeting improved ATMR sensitivity to both ATM inhibitors and radiation, while a mutant ATMR (lacking the target phosphorylation site) displayed a muted response. Treatment with ATM inhibitors and siRNA-targeted knockdown of ATM confirm the specificity of the reporter. Using reporter expressing xenografted tumors demonstrated the ability of ATMR to report in ATM activity in mouse models which correlated in a time-dependent fashion with changes in Chk2 activity.
We describe the development and validation of a novel, specific, non-invasive bioluminescent reporter that enables monitoring of ATM activity in real-time in vitro and in vivo. Potential applications of this reporter include the identification and development of novel ATM inhibitors or ATM-interacting partners through high-throughput screens, and in vivo pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic studies of ATM inhibitors in pre-clinical models.
PMCID: PMC3710537  PMID: 23726004
12.  Clinicopathological Significance of ATM-Chk2 Expression in Sporadic Breast Cancers: a Comprehensive Analysis in Large Cohorts1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2014;16(11):982-991.
ATM-Chk2 network is critical for genomic stability, and its deregulation may influence breast cancer pathogenesis. We investigated ATM and Chk2 protein levels in two cohorts [cohort 1 (n = 1650) and cohort 2 (n = 252)]. ATM and Chk2 mRNA expression was evaluated in the Molecular Taxonomy of Breast Cancer International Consortium cohort (n = 1950). Low nuclear ATM protein level was significantly associated with aggressive breast cancer including larger tumors, higher tumor grade, higher mitotic index, pleomorphism, tumor type, lymphovascular invasion, estrogen receptor (ER)−, PR −, AR −, triple-negative, and basal-like phenotypes (Ps < .05). Breast cancer 1, early onset negative, low XRCC1, low SMUG1, high FEN1, high MIB1, p53 mutants, low MDM2, low Bcl-2, low p21, low Bax, high CDK1, and low Chk2 were also more frequent in tumors with low nuclear ATM level (Ps < .05). Low ATM protein level was significantly associated with poor survival including in patients with ER-negative tumors who received adjuvant anthracycline or cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and 5-fluorouracil–based adjuvant chemotherapy (Ps < .05). Low nuclear Chk2 protein was likely in ER −/PR −/AR −; HER-2 positive; breast cancer 1, early onset negative; low XRCC1; low SMUG1; low APE1; low polβ; low DNA-PKcs; low ATM; low Bcl-2; and low TOPO2A tumors (P < .05). In patients with ER + tumors who received endocrine therapy or ER-negative tumors who received chemotherapy, nuclear Chk2 levels did not significantly influence survival. In p53 mutant tumors, low ATM (P < .000001) or high Chk2 (P < .01) was associated with poor survival. When investigated together, low-ATM/high-Chk2 tumors have the worst survival (P = .0033). Our data suggest that ATM-Chk2 levels in sporadic breast cancer may have prognostic and predictive significance.
PMCID: PMC4240925  PMID: 25425972
13.  DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit modulates the stability of c-Myc oncoprotein 
Molecular Cancer  2008;7:32.
C-Myc is a short-lived oncoprotein that is destroyed by ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis. Dysregulated accumulation of c-Myc commonly occurs in human cancers. Some of those cases with the dysregulated c-Myc protein accumulation are attributed to gene amplification or increased mRNA expression. However, the abnormal accumulation of c-Myc protein is also a common finding in human cancers with normal copy number and transcription level of c-Myc gene. It seems that the mechanistic dysregulation in the control of c-Myc protein stabilization is another important hallmark associated with c-Myc accumulation in cancer cells. Here we report a novel mechanistic pathway through which DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) modulates the stability of c-Myc protein.
Firstly, siRNA-mediated silencing of DNA-PKcs strikingly downregulated c-Myc protein levels in HeLa and HepG2 cells, and simultaneously decreased cell proliferation. The c-Myc protein level in DNA-PKcs deficient human glioma M059J cells was also found much lower than that in DNA-PKcs efficient M059K cells. ATM deficiency does not affect c-Myc expression level. Silencing of DNA-PKcs in HeLa cells resulted in a decreased stability of c-Myc protein, which was associated the increasing of c-Myc phosphorylation on Thr58/Ser62 and ubiquitination level. Phosphorylation of Akt on Ser473, a substrate of DNA-PKcs was found decreased in DNA-PKcs deficient cells. As the consequence, the phosphorylation of GSK3 β on Ser9, a negatively regulated target of Akt, was also decreased, and which led to activation of GSK 3β and in turn phosphorylation of c-Myc on Thr58. Moreover, inhibition of GSK3 activity by LiCl or specific siRNA molecules rescued the downregulation of c-Myc mediated by silencing DNA-PKcs. Consistent with this depressed DNA-PKcs cell model, overexpressing DNA-PKcs in normal human liver L02 cells, by sub-chronically exposing to very low dose of carcinogen 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), increased c-Myc protein level, the phosphorylation of Akt and GSK3 β, as well as cell proliferation. siRNA-mediated silencing of DNA-PKcs in this cell model reversed above alterations to the original levels of L02 cells.
A suitable DNA-PKcs level in cells is necessary for maintaining genomic stability, while abnormal overexpression of DNA-PKcs may contribute to cell proliferation and even oncogenic transformation by stabilizing the c-Myc oncoprotein via at least the Akt/GSK3 pathway. Our results suggest DNA-PKcs a novel biological role beyond its DNA repair function.
PMCID: PMC2383926  PMID: 18426604
14.  Ataxia-telangiectasia mutated kinase regulates ribonucleotide reductase and mitochondrial homeostasis 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2007;117(9):2723-2734.
Ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) kinase orchestrates nuclear DNA damage responses but is proposed to be involved in other important and clinically relevant functions. Here, we provide evidence for what we believe are 2 novel and intertwined roles for ATM: the regulation of ribonucleotide reductase (RR), the rate-limiting enzyme in the de novo synthesis of deoxyribonucleoside triphosphates, and control of mitochondrial homeostasis. Ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) patient fibroblasts, wild-type fibroblasts treated with the ATM inhibitor KU-55933, and cells in which RR is inhibited pharmacologically or by RNA interference (RNAi) each lead to mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) depletion under normal growth conditions. Disruption of ATM signaling in primary A-T fibroblasts also leads to global dysregulation of the R1, R2, and p53R2 subunits of RR, abrogation of RR-dependent upregulation of mtDNA in response to ionizing radiation, high mitochondrial transcription factor A (mtTFA)/mtDNA ratios, and increased resistance to inhibitors of mitochondrial respiration and translation. Finally, there are reduced expression of the R1 subunit of RR and tissue-specific alterations of mtDNA copy number in ATM null mouse tissues, the latter being recapitulated in tissues from human A-T patients. Based on these results, we propose that disruption of RR and mitochondrial homeostasis contributes to the complex pathology of A-T and that RR genes are candidate disease loci in mtDNA-depletion syndromes.
PMCID: PMC1952633  PMID: 17786248
15.  Etoposide Induces ATM-Dependent Mitochondrial Biogenesis through AMPK Activation 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(4):e2009.
DNA damage such as double-stranded DNA breaks (DSBs) has been reported to stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis. However, the underlying mechanism is poorly understood. The major player in response to DSBs is ATM (ataxia telangiectasia mutated). Upon sensing DSBs, ATM is activated through autophosphorylation and phosphorylates a number of substrates for DNA repair, cell cycle regulation and apoptosis. ATM has been reported to phosphorylate the α subunit of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which senses AMP/ATP ratio in cells, and can be activated by upstream kinases. Here we provide evidence for a novel role of ATM in mitochondrial biogenesis through AMPK activation in response to etoposide-induced DNA damage.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Three pairs of human ATM+ and ATM- cells were employed. Cells treated with etoposide exhibited an ATM-dependent increase in mitochondrial mass as measured by 10-N-Nonyl-Acridine Orange and MitoTracker Green FM staining, as well as an increase in mitochondrial DNA content. In addition, the expression of several known mitochondrial biogenesis regulators such as the major mitochondrial transcription factor NRF-1, PGC-1α and TFAM was also elevated in response to etoposide treatment as monitored by RT-PCR. Three pieces of evidence suggest that etoposide-induced mitochondrial biogenesis is due to ATM-dependent activation of AMPK. First, etoposide induced ATM-dependent phosphorylation of AMPK α subunit at Thr172, indicative of AMPK activation. Second, inhibition of AMPK blocked etoposide-induced mitochondrial biogenesis. Third, activation of AMPK by AICAR (an AMP analogue) stimulated mitochondrial biogenesis in an ATM-dependent manner, suggesting that ATM may be an upstream kinase of AMPK in the mitochondrial biogenesis pathway.
These results suggest that activation of ATM by etoposide can lead to mitochondrial biogenesis through AMPK activation. We propose that ATM-dependent mitochondrial biogenesis may play a role in DNA damage response and ROS regulation, and that defect in ATM-dependent mitochondrial biogenesis could contribute to the manifestations of A-T disease.
PMCID: PMC2329593  PMID: 18431490
16.  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
17.  ATM Limits Incorrect End Utilization during Non-Homologous End Joining of Multiple Chromosome Breaks 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(11):e1001194.
Chromosome rearrangements can form when incorrect ends are matched during end joining (EJ) repair of multiple chromosomal double-strand breaks (DSBs). We tested whether the ATM kinase limits chromosome rearrangements via suppressing incorrect end utilization during EJ repair of multiple DSBs. For this, we developed a system for monitoring EJ of two tandem DSBs that can be repaired using correct ends (Proximal-EJ) or incorrect ends (Distal-EJ, which causes loss of the DNA between the DSBs). In this system, two DSBs are induced in a chromosomal reporter by the meganuclease I-SceI. These DSBs are processed into non-cohesive ends by the exonuclease Trex2, which leads to the formation of I-SceI–resistant EJ products during both Proximal-EJ and Distal-EJ. Using this method, we find that genetic or chemical disruption of ATM causes a substantial increase in Distal-EJ, but not Proximal-EJ. We also find that the increase in Distal-EJ caused by ATM disruption is dependent on classical non-homologous end joining (c-NHEJ) factors, specifically DNA-PKcs, Xrcc4, and XLF. We present evidence that Nbs1-deficiency also causes elevated Distal-EJ, but not Proximal-EJ, to a similar degree as ATM-deficiency. In addition, to evaluate the roles of these factors on end processing, we examined Distal-EJ repair junctions. We found that ATM and Xrcc4 limit the length of deletions, whereas Nbs1 and DNA-PKcs promote short deletions. Thus, the regulation of end processing appears distinct from that of end utilization. In summary, we suggest that ATM is important to limit incorrect end utilization during c-NHEJ.
Author Summary
When a chromosome is fragmented by multiple double-strand breaks (DSBs), each set of DSB ends needs to be matched correctly during repair to avoid chromosomal rearrangements. Considering the case of two tandem DSBs, if the ends of different breaks (incorrect ends) are used for repair, loss of the intervening DNA can occur. Alternatively, when the ends of a single DSB (correct ends) are used for repair, the original order of the chromosome is restored. Deficiencies in the factors ATM and Nbs1, as seen in patients with Ataxia Telangiectasia and Nijmegen Breakage Syndrome, respectively, have been associated with elevated chromosome rearrangements and cancer predisposition. Hence, we examined the possibility that these factors may be important for the usage of correct ends during repair of multiple DSBs. For this, we developed a reporter system to examine end usage during repair of two tandem DSBs in mammalian chromosomes and found that disruption of ATM or Nbs1 leads to elevated usage of incorrect ends. Furthermore, we found that the role of ATM during end usage depends on a repair pathway called classical non-homologous end joining (c-NHEJ). We suggest that ATM suppresses genome rearrangements via limiting incorrect end utilization during c-NHEJ.
PMCID: PMC2973825  PMID: 21079684
18.  Nuclear Receptor Expression Defines a Set of Prognostic Biomarkers for Lung Cancer 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000378.
David Mangelsdorf and colleagues show that nuclear receptor expression is strongly associated with clinical outcomes of lung cancer patients, and this expression profile is a potential prognostic signature for lung cancer patient survival time, particularly for individuals with early stage disease.
The identification of prognostic tumor biomarkers that also would have potential as therapeutic targets, particularly in patients with early stage disease, has been a long sought-after goal in the management and treatment of lung cancer. The nuclear receptor (NR) superfamily, which is composed of 48 transcription factors that govern complex physiologic and pathophysiologic processes, could represent a unique subset of these biomarkers. In fact, many members of this family are the targets of already identified selective receptor modulators, providing a direct link between individual tumor NR quantitation and selection of therapy. The goal of this study, which begins this overall strategy, was to investigate the association between mRNA expression of the NR superfamily and the clinical outcome for patients with lung cancer, and to test whether a tumor NR gene signature provided useful information (over available clinical data) for patients with lung cancer.
Methods and Findings
Using quantitative real-time PCR to study NR expression in 30 microdissected non-small-cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) and their pair-matched normal lung epithelium, we found great variability in NR expression among patients' tumor and non-involved lung epithelium, found a strong association between NR expression and clinical outcome, and identified an NR gene signature from both normal and tumor tissues that predicted patient survival time and disease recurrence. The NR signature derived from the initial 30 NSCLC samples was validated in two independent microarray datasets derived from 442 and 117 resected lung adenocarcinomas. The NR gene signature was also validated in 130 squamous cell carcinomas. The prognostic signature in tumors could be distilled to expression of two NRs, short heterodimer partner and progesterone receptor, as single gene predictors of NSCLC patient survival time, including for patients with stage I disease. Of equal interest, the studies of microdissected histologically normal epithelium and matched tumors identified expression in normal (but not tumor) epithelium of NGFIB3 and mineralocorticoid receptor as single gene predictors of good prognosis.
NR expression is strongly associated with clinical outcomes for patients with lung cancer, and this expression profile provides a unique prognostic signature for lung cancer patient survival time, particularly for those with early stage disease. This study highlights the potential use of NRs as a rational set of therapeutically tractable genes as theragnostic biomarkers, and specifically identifies short heterodimer partner and progesterone receptor in tumors, and NGFIB3 and MR in non-neoplastic lung epithelium, for future detailed translational study in lung cancer.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Lung cancer, the most common cause of cancer-related death, kills 1.3 million people annually. Most lung cancers are “non-small-cell lung cancers” (NSCLCs), and most are caused by smoking. Exposure to chemicals in smoke causes changes in the genes of the cells lining the lungs that allow the cells to grow uncontrollably and to move around the body. How NSCLC is treated and responds to treatment depends on its “stage.” Stage I tumors, which are small and confined to the lung, are removed surgically, although chemotherapy is also sometimes given. Stage II tumors have spread to nearby lymph nodes and are treated with surgery and chemotherapy, as are some stage III tumors. However, because cancer cells in stage III tumors can be present throughout the chest, surgery is not always possible. For such cases, and for stage IV NSCLC, where the tumor has spread around the body, patients are treated with chemotherapy alone. About 70% of patients with stage I and II NSCLC but only 2% of patients with stage IV NSCLC survive for five years after diagnosis; more than 50% of patients have stage IV NSCLC at diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
Patient responses to treatment vary considerably. Oncologists (doctors who treat cancer) would like to know which patients have a good prognosis (are likely to do well) to help them individualize their treatment. Consequently, the search is on for “prognostic tumor biomarkers,” molecules made by cancer cells that can be used to predict likely clinical outcomes. Such biomarkers, which may also be potential therapeutic targets, can be identified by analyzing the overall pattern of gene expression in a panel of tumors using a technique called microarray analysis and looking for associations between the expression of sets of genes and clinical outcomes. In this study, the researchers take a more directed approach to identifying prognostic biomarkers by investigating the association between the expression of the genes encoding nuclear receptors (NRs) and clinical outcome in patients with lung cancer. The NR superfamily contains 48 transcription factors (proteins that control the expression of other genes) that respond to several hormones and to diet-derived fats. NRs control many biological processes and are targets for several successful drugs, including some used to treat cancer.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed the expression of NR mRNAs using “quantitative real-time PCR” in 30 microdissected NSCLCs and in matched normal lung tissue samples (mRNA is the blueprint for protein production). They then used an approach called standard classification and regression tree analysis to build a prognostic model for NSCLC based on the expression data. This model predicted both survival time and disease recurrence among the patients from whom the tumors had been taken. The researchers validated their prognostic model in two large independent lung adenocarcinoma microarray datasets and in a squamous cell carcinoma dataset (adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas are two major NSCLC subtypes). Finally, they explored the roles of specific NRs in the prediction model. This analysis revealed that the ability of the NR signature in tumors to predict outcomes was mainly due to the expression of two NRs—the short heterodimer partner (SHP) and the progesterone receptor (PR). Expression of either gene could be used as a single gene predictor of the survival time of patients, including those with stage I disease. Similarly, the expression of either nerve growth factor induced gene B3 (NGFIB3) or mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) in normal tissue was a single gene predictor of a good prognosis.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the expression of NR mRNA is strongly associated with clinical outcomes in patients with NSCLC. Furthermore, they identify a prognostic NR expression signature that provides information on the survival time of patients, including those with early stage disease. The signature needs to be confirmed in more patients before it can be used clinically, and researchers would like to establish whether changes in mRNA expression are reflected in changes in protein expression if NRs are to be targeted therapeutically. Nevertheless, these findings highlight the potential use of NRs as prognostic tumor biomarkers. Furthermore, they identify SHP and PR in tumors and two NRs in normal lung tissue as molecules that might provide new targets for the treatment of lung cancer and new insights into the early diagnosis, pathogenesis, and chemoprevention of lung cancer.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The Nuclear Receptor Signaling Atlas (NURSA) is consortium of scientists sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health that provides scientific reagents, datasets, and educational material on nuclear receptors and their co-regulators to the scientific community through a Web-based portal
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) provides information and resources to anyone interested in the prevention and treatment of lung and other cancers
The US National Cancer Institute provides detailed information for patients and professionals about all aspects of lung cancer, including information on non-small-cell carcinoma and on tumor markers (in English and Spanish)
Cancer Research UK also provides information about lung cancer and information on how cancer starts
MedlinePlus has links to other resources about lung cancer (in English and Spanish)
Wikipedia has a page on nuclear receptors (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC3001894  PMID: 21179495
19.  p53 and DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit independently function in regulating actin damage-induced tetraploid G1 arrest 
Experimental & Molecular Medicine  2011;44(3):236-240.
We previously reported that the p53 tumor suppressor protein plays an essential role in the induction of tetraploid G1 arrest in response to perturbation of the actin cytoskeleton, termed actin damage. In this study, we investigated the role of p53, ataxia telangiectasia mutated protein (ATM), and catalytic subunit of DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PKcs) in tetraploid G1 arrest induced by actin damage. Treatment with actin-damaging agents including pectenotoxin-2 (PTX-2) increases phosphorylation of Ser-15 and Ser-37 residues of p53, but not Ser-20 residue. Knockdown of ATM and DNA-PKcs do not affect p53 phosphorylation induced by actin damage. However, while ATM knockdown does not affect tetraploid G1 arrest, knockdown of DNA-PKcs not only perturbs tetraploid G1 arrest, but also results in formation of polyploidy and induction of apoptosis. These results indicate that DNA-PKcs is essential for the maintenance of actin damage induced-tetraploid G1 arrest in a p53-independent manner. Furthermore, actin damage-induced p53 expression is not observed in cells synchronized at G1/S of the cell cycle, implying that p53 induction is due to actin damage-induced tetraploidy rather than perturbation of actin cytoskeleton. Therefore, these results suggest that p53 and DNA-PKcs independently function for tetraploid G1 arrest and preventing polyploidy formation.
PMCID: PMC3317487  PMID: 22198295
actin cytoskeleton; ataxia telangiectasia mutated protein; DNA-activated protein kinase; pectenotoxin 2; tumor suppressor protein p53
20.  Prognostic implications of ezrin and phosphorylated ezrin expression in non-small cell lung cancer 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:191.
The cytoskeletal organizer ezrin is a member of the ezrin-radixin-moesin (ERM) family and plays important roles in not only cell motility, cell adhesion, and apoptosis, but also in various cell signaling pathways. Phosphorylation at Thr-567 and Tyr-353 are key regulatory events in the transition of the dormant to active form of ezrin. This study investigated the prognostic implications of ezrin and phosphorylated ezrin (p-ezrin) expression in non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC).
Ezrin and p-ezrin protein expressions were examined by immunohistochemistry in 150 NSCLC and adjacent non-tumor tissues and 14 normal lung tissues. qRT-PCR was used to determine ezrin mRNA expression levels in fresh tissues. The correlations between overexpression of ezrin and p-ezrin and the clinicopathological features of NSCLC were analyzed. The survival rates were calculated by the Kaplan-Meier method for 108 NSCLC cases.
Ezrin and ezrinThr-567 proteins showed cytosolic and membranous staining patterns; however, ezrinTyr-353 protein only showed cytosolic staining. Ezrin and p-ezrin were significantly upregulated in NSCLC compared with the normal counterparts. Increased ezrin, ezrinThr-567, and ezrinTyr-353 levels were correlated with the late stage and poor differentiation of NSCLC. However, only ezrinThr-567 was correlated with the presence of lymph node metastasis. In regard to survival, only ezrinThr-567 was related with the overall survival time of patients with NSCLC, and both ezrin and ezrinThr-567 were associated with shortened survival time for patients with early stage NSCLC.
Ezrin and p-ezrin, especially ezrinThr-567, may prove to be useful as a novel prognostic biomarker of NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3985600  PMID: 24629131
Lung cancer; Ezrin; Phosphorylated ezrin; Immunohistochemistry; Survival analysis
21.  Deregulation of DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit contributes to human hepatocarcinogenesis development and has a putative prognostic value 
British Journal of Cancer  2013;109(10):2654-2664.
The DNA-repair gene DNA-dependent kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) favours or inhibits carcinogenesis, depending on the cancer type. Its role in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is unknown.
DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subuni, H2A histone family member X (H2AFX) and heat shock transcription factor-1 (HSF1) levels were assessed by immunohistochemistry and/or immunoblotting and qRT–PCR in a collection of human HCC. Rates of proliferation, apoptosis, microvessel density and genomic instability were also determined. Heat shock factor-1 cDNA or DNA-PKcs-specific siRNA were used to explore the role of both genes in HCC. Activator protein 1 (AP-1) binding to DNA-PKcs promoter was evaluated by chromatin immunoprecipitation. Kaplan–Meier curves and multivariate Cox model were used to study the impact on clinical outcome.
Total and phosphorylated DNA-PKcs and H2AFX were upregulated in HCC. Activated DNA-PKcs positively correlated with HCC proliferation, genomic instability and microvessel density, and negatively with apoptosis and patient's survival. Proliferation decline and massive apoptosis followed DNA-PKcs silencing in HCC cell lines. Total and phosphorylated HSF1 protein, mRNA and activity were upregulated in HCC. Mechanistically, we demonstrated that HSF1 induces DNA-PKcs upregulation through the activation of the MAPK/JNK/AP-1 axis.
DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit transduces HSF1 effects in HCC cells, and might represent a novel target and prognostic factor in human HCC.
PMCID: PMC3833205  PMID: 24136149
hepatocellular carcinoma; DNA-PKcs; HSF1; prognostic marker
22.  DNA-PK-Dependent G2 Checkpoint Revealed Following Knockdown of ATM in Human Mammary Epithelial Cells 
Cancer research  2008;68(1):89-97.
Members of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase related kinase (PIKK) family, in particular the ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) kinase and the catalytic subunit of the DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PKcs), regulate cellular responses to DNA double strand breaks (DSBs). Increased sensitivity to ionizing radiation (IR) in DNA-PKcs or ATM deficient cells emphasizes their important roles in maintaining genome stability. Furthermore, combined knockout of both kinases is synthetically lethal, suggesting functional complementarity. In the current study, using human mammary epithelial cells with ATM levels stably knocked down by >90%, we observed an IR-induced G2 checkpoint that was only slightly attenuated. In marked contrast, this G2 checkpoint was significantly attenuated with either DNA-PK inhibitor treatment or RNAi knockdown of DNA-PKcs, the catalytic subunit of DNA-PK, indicating that DNA-PK contributes to the G2 checkpoint in these cells. Furthermore, in agreement with the checkpoint attenuation, DNA-PK inhibition in ATM-knockdown cells resulted in reduced signaling of the checkpoint kinase CHK1 as evidenced by reduced CHK1 phophorylation. Taken together these results demonstrate a DNA-PK-dependent component to the IR-induced G2 checkpoint in addition to the well-defined ATM-dependent component. This may have important implications for chemotherapeutic strategies for breast cancers.
PMCID: PMC2664074  PMID: 18172300
23.  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
24.  Functional Intersection of ATM and DNA-Dependent Protein Kinase Catalytic Subunit in Coding End Joining during V(D)J Recombination 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2013;33(18):3568-3579.
V(D)J recombination is initiated by the RAG endonuclease, which introduces DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) at the border between two recombining gene segments, generating two hairpin-sealed coding ends and two blunt signal ends. ATM and DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) are serine-threonine kinases that orchestrate the cellular responses to DNA DSBs. During V(D)J recombination, ATM and DNA-PKcs have unique functions in the repair of coding DNA ends. ATM deficiency leads to instability of postcleavage complexes and the loss of coding ends from these complexes. DNA-PKcs deficiency leads to a nearly complete block in coding join formation, as DNA-PKcs is required to activate Artemis, the endonuclease that opens hairpin-sealed coding ends. In contrast to loss of DNA-PKcs protein, here we show that inhibition of DNA-PKcs kinase activity has no effect on coding join formation when ATM is present and its kinase activity is intact. The ability of ATM to compensate for DNA-PKcs kinase activity depends on the integrity of three threonines in DNA-PKcs that are phosphorylation targets of ATM, suggesting that ATM can modulate DNA-PKcs activity through direct phosphorylation of DNA-PKcs. Mutation of these threonine residues to alanine (DNA-PKcs3A) renders DNA-PKcs dependent on its intrinsic kinase activity during coding end joining, at a step downstream of opening hairpin-sealed coding ends. Thus, DNA-PKcs has critical functions in coding end joining beyond promoting Artemis endonuclease activity, and these functions can be regulated redundantly by the kinase activity of either ATM or DNA-PKcs.
PMCID: PMC3753869  PMID: 23836881
25.  The catalytic subunit DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PKcs) facilitates recovery from radiation-induced inhibition of DNA replication 
Nucleic Acids Research  2000;28(5):1183-1192.
Exposure of cells to ionizing radiation inhibits DNA replication in a dose-dependent manner. The dose response is biphasic and the initial steep component reflects inhibition of replicon initiation thought to be mediated by activation of the S-phase checkpoint. In mammalian cells, inhibition of replicon initiation requires the ataxia telagiectasia mutated (ATM) gene, a member of the phosphatidyl inositol kinase-like (PIKL) family of protein kinases. We studied the effect on replicon initiation of another member of the PI-3 family of protein kinases, the catalytic subunit of DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PKcs) by measuring either total DNA synthesis, or size distribution of nascent DNA using alkaline sucrose gradient centrifugation. Exposure of human cells proficient in DNA-PKcs (HeLa or M059-K) to 10 Gy inhibited replicon initiation in a time-dependent manner. Inhibition was at a maximum 1 h after irradiation and recovered at later times. Similar treatment of human cells deficient in DNA-PKcs (M059-J) inhibited replicon initiation to a similar level and with similar kinetics; however, no evidence for recovery, or only limited recovery, was observed for up to 8 h after irradiation. In addition a defect was observed in the maturation of nascent DNA. Similarly, a Chinese hamster cell line deficient in DNA-PKcs (irs-20) showed little evidence for recovery of DNA replication inhibition up to 6 h after irradiation, whereas the parental CHO cells showed significant recovery and an irs-20 derivative expressing the human DNA-PKcs complete recovery within 4 h. Normal kinetics of recovery were observed in xrs-5 cells, deficient in Ku80; in 180BR cells, deficient in DNA ligase IV; as well as XR-1 cells, deficient in XRCC4, an accessory factor of DNA ligase IV. Since all these cell lines share the DNA double strand break rejoining defect of M059-J and irs20 cells, the lack of recovery of DNA replication in the latter cells may not be attributed entirely to the prolonged presence of unrepaired DNA dsb. We propose that DNA-PKcs, in addition to its functions in the rejoining of DNA dsb and in DNA replication, also operates in a pathway that in normal cells facilitates recovery of DNA replication after irradiation.
PMCID: PMC102621  PMID: 10666461

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