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1.  Deregulated Ras signaling compromises DNA damage checkpoint recovery in S. cerevisiae 
Cell Cycle  2010;9(16):3353-3363.
The DNA damage checkpoint maintains genome stability by arresting the cell cycle and promoting DNA repair under genotoxic stress. Cells must downregulate the checkpoint signaling pathways in order to resume cell division after completing DNA repair. While the mechanisms of checkpoint activation have been well-characterized, the process of checkpoint recovery, and the signals regulating it, has only recently been investigated. We have identified a new role for the Ras signaling pathway as a regulator of DNA damage checkpoint recovery. Here we report that in budding yeast, deletion of the IRA1 and IRA2 genes encoding negative regulators of Ras prevents cellular recovery from a DNA damage induced arrest. the checkpoint kinase Rad53 is dephosphorylated in an IRA-deficient strain, indicating that recovery failure is not caused by constitutive checkpoint pathway activation. the ira1Δ ira2Δ recovery defect requires the checkpoint kinase Chk1 and the cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) catalytic subunit Tpk2. Furthermore, PKA phosphorylation sites on the anaphase promoting complex specificity factor Cdc20 are required for the recovery defect, indicating a link between the recovery defect and PKA regulation of mitosis. This work identifies a new signaling pathway that can regulate DNA damage checkpoint recovery and implicates the Ras signaling pathway as an important regulator of mitotic events.
PMCID: PMC3041168  PMID: 20716966
DNA damage checkpoint; Ras signaling; budding yeast; cAMP-dependent protein kinase; anaphase promoting complex; neurofibromatosis type 1
2.  A Mitotic Phosphorylation Feedback Network Connects Cdk1, Plk1, 53BP1, and Chk2 to Inactivate the G2/M DNA Damage Checkpoint 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(1):e1000287.
A combined computational and biochemical approach reveals how mitotic kinases allow cell division to proceed in the presence of DNA damage.
DNA damage checkpoints arrest cell cycle progression to facilitate DNA repair. The ability to survive genotoxic insults depends not only on the initiation of cell cycle checkpoints but also on checkpoint maintenance. While activation of DNA damage checkpoints has been studied extensively, molecular mechanisms involved in sustaining and ultimately inactivating cell cycle checkpoints are largely unknown. Here, we explored feedback mechanisms that control the maintenance and termination of checkpoint function by computationally identifying an evolutionary conserved mitotic phosphorylation network within the DNA damage response. We demonstrate that the non-enzymatic checkpoint adaptor protein 53BP1 is an in vivo target of the cell cycle kinases Cyclin-dependent kinase-1 and Polo-like kinase-1 (Plk1). We show that Plk1 binds 53BP1 during mitosis and that this interaction is required for proper inactivation of the DNA damage checkpoint. 53BP1 mutants that are unable to bind Plk1 fail to restart the cell cycle after ionizing radiation-mediated cell cycle arrest. Importantly, we show that Plk1 also phosphorylates the 53BP1-binding checkpoint kinase Chk2 to inactivate its FHA domain and inhibit its kinase activity in mammalian cells. Thus, a mitotic kinase-mediated negative feedback loop regulates the ATM-Chk2 branch of the DNA damage signaling network by phosphorylating conserved sites in 53BP1 and Chk2 to inactivate checkpoint signaling and control checkpoint duration.
Author Summary
DNA is constantly damaged both by factors outside our bodies (such as ultraviolet rays from sunlight) and by factors from within (such as reactive oxygen species produced during metabolism). DNA damage can lead to malfunctioning of genes, and persistent DNA damage can result in developmental disorders or the development of cancer. To ensure proper DNA repair, cells are equipped with an evolutionarily conserved DNA damage checkpoint, which stops proliferation and activates DNA repair mechanisms. Intriguingly, this DNA damage checkpoint responds to DNA damage throughout the cell cycle, except during mitosis. In this work, we have addressed how cells dismantle their DNA damage checkpoint during mitosis to allow cell division to proceed even if there is damaged DNA present. Using the observation that kinases phosphorylate their substrates on evolutionarily conserved, kinase-specific sequence motifs, we have used a combined computational and experimental approach to predict and verify key proteins involved in mitotic checkpoint inactivation. We show that the checkpoint scaffold protein 53BP1 is phosphorylated by the mitotic kinases Cdk1 and Polo-like kinase-1 (Plk1). Furthermore, we find that Plk1 can inactivate the checkpoint kinase Chk2, which is downstream of 53BP1. Plk1 is shown to be a key mediator of mitotic checkpoint inactivation, as cells that cannot activate Plk1 fail to properly dismantle the DNA damage checkpoint during mitosis and instead show DNA damage-induced Chk2 kinase activation. Two related papers, published in PLoS Biology (Vidanes et al., doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000286) and PLoS Genetics (Donnianni et al., doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000763), similarly investigate the phenomenon of DNA damage checkpoint silencing.
PMCID: PMC2811157  PMID: 20126263
3.  E2F4 Function in G2 
Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)  2007;6(10):1147-1152.
Mammalian cells undergo cell cycle arrest in response to DNA damage through multiple checkpoint mechanisms. One such checkpoint pathway maintains genomic integrity by delaying mitotic progression in response to genotoxic stress. Transition though the G2 phase and entry into mitosis is considered to be regulated primarily by cyclin B1 and its associated catalytically active partner Cdk1. While not necessary for its initiation, the p130 and Rb-dependent target genes have emerged as being important for stable maintenance of a G2 arrest. It was recently demonstrated that by interacting with p130, E2F4 is present in the nuclei and plays a key role in the maintenance of this stable G2 arrest. Increased E2F4 levels and its translocation to the nucleus following genotoxic stress result in downregulation of many mitotic genes and as a result promote a G0-like state. Irradiation of E2F4-depleted cells leads to enhanced cellular DNA double-strand breaks that may be measured by comet assays. It also results in cell death that is characterized by caspase activation, sub-G1 and sub-G2 DNA content, and decreased clonogenic cell survival. Here we review these recent findings and discuss the mechanisms of G2 phase checkpoint activation and maintenance with a particular focus on E2F4.
PMCID: PMC2596058  PMID: 17507799
E2F4; p130; Rb; G2-phase; cell cycle; mitosis; ionizing radiation; genotoxic stress
4.  DNA damage signaling triggers the cytoplasm-to-vacuole pathway of autophagy to regulate cell cycle progression 
Autophagy  2013;9(3):440-441.
Budding yeast cells suffering a single unrepaired DNA double-strand break (DSB) trigger the ATR (Mec1)-dependent DNA damage checkpoint and arrest prior to anaphase for 12–15 h, following which they adapt and resume cell division. When the DNA lesion can be repaired, the checkpoint is extinguished and cells “recover” and resume mitosis. In this autophagic punctum, we report that hyperactivation of autophagy—specifically via the cytoplasm-to-vacuole targeting (Cvt) pathway—prevents both adaptation to, and recovery from, DNA damage, resulting in the permanent arrest of cells in G2/M. We show that Saccharomyces cerevisiae deleted for genes encoding the Golgi-associated retrograde protein transport (GARP) complex are both adaptation- and recovery-defective. GARP mutants such as vps51Δ exhibit mislocalization of the key mitotic regulator, securin (Pds1), and its degradation by the vacuolar protease Prb1. In addition, separase (Esp1), is excluded from the nucleus, accounting for pre-anaphase arrest. Pds1 is degraded via the Cvt pathway. Many of the same defects seen by deleting GARP genes can be mimicked by hyperactivation of the Cvt pathway by overexpressing an unphosphorylatable form of ATG13 or by adding the TORC1 inhibitor rapamycin. These results suggest that nuclear events such as DNA damage can have profound effects on cytoplasmic processes and further expand the burgeoning connections between DNA damage and autophagy.
PMCID: PMC3590272  PMID: 23322149
DNA damage; cell cycle checkpoint; anaphase; GARP; CVT pathway
5.  Homeostatic control of polo-like kinase-1 engenders non-genetic heterogeneity in G2 checkpoint fidelity and timing 
Nature Communications  2014;5:4048.
The G2 checkpoint monitors DNA damage, preventing mitotic entry until the damage can be resolved. The mechanisms controlling checkpoint recovery are unclear. Here, we identify non-genetic heterogeneity in the fidelity and timing of damage-induced G2 checkpoint enforcement in individual cells from the same population. Single-cell fluorescence imaging reveals that individual damaged cells experience varying durations of G2 arrest, and recover with varying levels of remaining checkpoint signal or DNA damage. A gating mechanism dependent on polo-like kinase-1 (PLK1) activity underlies this heterogeneity. PLK1 activity continually accumulates from initial levels in G2-arrested cells, at a rate inversely correlated to checkpoint activation, until it reaches a threshold allowing mitotic entry regardless of remaining checkpoint signal or DNA damage. Thus, homeostatic control of PLK1 by the dynamic opposition between checkpoint signalling and pro-mitotic activities heterogeneously enforces the G2 checkpoint in each individual cell, with implications for cancer pathogenesis and therapy.
Cells exposed to DNA damage delay mitotic entry to allow repair. Liang et al. unexpectedly find that the duration of arrest and the completeness of repair vary from cell to cell, determined by progressively increasing polo-like kinase-1 activity, which must pass a threshold to trigger mitosis.
PMCID: PMC4059941  PMID: 24893992
6.  Inactivation of the cyclin-dependent kinase Cdc28 abrogates cell cycle arrest induced by DNA damage and disassembly of mitotic spindles in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1997;17(5):2723-2734.
Eukaryotic cells may halt cell cycle progression following exposure to certain exogenous agents that damage cellular structures such as DNA or microtubules. This phenomenon has been attributed to functions of cellular control mechanisms termed checkpoints. Studies with the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe and mammalian cells have led to the conclusion that cell cycle arrest in response to inhibition of DNA replication or DNA damage is a result of down-regulation of the cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs). Based on these studies, it has been proposed that inhibition of the CDK activity may constitute a general mechanism for checkpoint controls. Observations made with the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, however, appear to disagree with this model. It has been shown that high levels of mitotic CDK activity are present in the budding yeast cells arrested in G2/mitosis as the result of DNA damage or replication inhibition. In this report, we show that a novel mutant allele of the CDC28 gene, encoding the budding yeast CDK, allowed cell cycle passage through mitosis and nuclear division in the presence of DNA damage and the microtubule toxin nocodazole at a restrictive temperature. Unlike the checkpoint-defective mutations in CDKs of fission yeast and mammalian cells, the cdc28 mutation that we identified was recessive and resulted in a loss of the CDK activity, including the Clb2-, Clb5-, and Clb6-associated, but not the Clb3-associated, CDK activities. Examination of several known alleles of cdc28 revealed that they were also, albeit partially, defective in cell cycle arrest in response to UV-generated DNA damage. These findings suggest that Cdc28 kinase in budding yeast may be required for cell cycle arrest resulting from DNA damage and disassembly of mitotic spindles.
PMCID: PMC232123  PMID: 9111343
7.  Elevated Levels of the Polo Kinase Cdc5 Override the Mec1/ATR Checkpoint in Budding Yeast by Acting at Different Steps of the Signaling Pathway 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(1):e1000763.
Checkpoints are surveillance mechanisms that constitute a barrier to oncogenesis by preserving genome integrity. Loss of checkpoint function is an early event in tumorigenesis. Polo kinases (Plks) are fundamental regulators of cell cycle progression in all eukaryotes and are frequently overexpressed in tumors. Through their polo box domain, Plks target multiple substrates previously phosphorylated by CDKs and MAPKs. In response to DNA damage, Plks are temporally inhibited in order to maintain the checkpoint-dependent cell cycle block while their activity is required to silence the checkpoint response and resume cell cycle progression. Here, we report that, in budding yeast, overproduction of the Cdc5 polo kinase overrides the checkpoint signaling induced by double strand DNA breaks (DSBs), preventing the phosphorylation of several Mec1/ATR targets, including Ddc2/ATRIP, the checkpoint mediator Rad9, and the transducer kinase Rad53/CHK2. We also show that high levels of Cdc5 slow down DSB processing in a Rad9-dependent manner, but do not prevent the binding of checkpoint factors to a single DSB. Finally, we provide evidence that Sae2, the functional ortholog of human CtIP, which regulates DSB processing and inhibits checkpoint signaling, is regulated by Cdc5. We propose that Cdc5 interferes with the checkpoint response to DSBs acting at multiple levels in the signal transduction pathway and at an early step required to resect DSB ends.
Author Summary
Double strand DNA breaks (DSBs) are dangerous chromosomal lesions that can lead to genome rearrangements, genetic instability, and cancer if not accurately repaired. Eukaryotes activate a surveillance mechanism, called DNA damage checkpoint, to arrest cell cycle progression and facilitate DNA repair. Several factors are physically recruited to DSBs, and specific kinases phosphorylate multiple targets leading to checkpoint activation. Budding yeast is a good model system to study checkpoint, and most of the factors involved in the DSBs response were originally characterized in this organism. Using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we explored the functional role of polo kinase Cdc5 in regulating the DSB–induced checkpoint. Polo kinases have been previously involved in checkpoint inactivation in all the eukaryotes, and they are frequently overexpressed in cancer cells. We found that elevated levels of Cdc5 affect the cellular response to a DSB at different steps, altering DNA processing and overriding the signal triggered by checkpoint kinases. Our findings suggest that Cdc5 likely regulates multiple factors in response to a DSB and provide a rationale for a proteome-wide screening to identify targets of polo kinases in yeast and human cells. Such information may have a practical application to design specific molecular tools for cancer therapy. Two related papers published in PLoS Biology—by Vidanes et al., doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000286, and van Vugt et al., doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000287—similarly investigate the phenomenon of checkpoint adaptation/overriding.
PMCID: PMC2797610  PMID: 20098491
8.  Safeguarding Entry into Mitosis: the Antephase Checkpoint ▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;30(1):22-32.
Maintenance of genomic stability is needed for cells to survive many rounds of division throughout their lifetime. Key to the proper inheritance of intact genome is the tight temporal and spatial coordination of cell cycle events. Moreover, checkpoints are present that function to monitor the proper execution of cell cycle processes. For instance, the DNA damage and spindle assembly checkpoints ensure genomic integrity by delaying cell cycle progression in the presence of DNA or spindle damage, respectively. A checkpoint that has recently been gaining attention is the antephase checkpoint that acts to prevent cells from entering mitosis in response to a range of stress agents. We review here what is known about the pathway that monitors the status of the cells at the brink of entry into mitosis when cells are exposed to insults that threaten the proper inheritance of chromosomes. We highlight issues which are unresolved in terms of our understanding of the antephase checkpoint and provide some perspectives on what lies ahead in the understanding of how the checkpoint functions.
PMCID: PMC2798306  PMID: 19841063
9.  The Ulp2 SUMO Protease Is Required for Cell Division following Termination of the DNA Damage Checkpoint▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(19):6948-6961.
Eukaryotic genome integrity is maintained via a DNA damage checkpoint that recognizes DNA damage and halts the cell cycle at metaphase, allowing time for repair. Checkpoint signaling is eventually terminated so that the cell cycle can resume. How cells restart cell division following checkpoint termination is poorly understood. Here we show that the SUMO protease Ulp2 is required for resumption of cell division following DNA damage-induced arrest in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, although it is not required for DNA double-strand break repair. The Rad53 branch of the checkpoint pathway generates a signal countered by Ulp2 activity following DNA damage. Interestingly, unlike previously characterized adaptation mutants, ulp2Δ mutants do not show persistent Rad53 phosphorylation following DNA damage, suggesting checkpoint signaling has been terminated and no longer asserts an arrest in these cells. Using Cdc14 localization as a cell cycle indicator, we show that nearly half of cells lacking Ulp2 can escape a checkpoint-induced metaphase arrest despite their inability to divide again. Moreover, half of permanently arrested ulp2Δ cells show evidence of an aberrant mitotic spindle, suggesting that Ulp2 is required for proper spindle dynamics during cell cycle resumption following a DNA damage-induced cell cycle arrest.
PMCID: PMC2099214  PMID: 17664284
10.  Bub3p Facilitates Spindle Checkpoint Silencing in Fission Yeast 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2009;20(24):5096-5105.
Although critical for spindle checkpoint signaling, the role kinetochores play in anaphase promoting complex (APC) inhibition remains unclear. Here we show that spindle checkpoint proteins are severely depleted from unattached kinetochores in fission yeast cells lacking Bub3p. Surprisingly, a robust mitotic arrest is maintained in the majority of bub3Δ cells, yet they die, suggesting that Bub3p is essential for successful checkpoint recovery. During recovery, two defects are observed: (1) cells mis-segregate chromosomes and (2) anaphase onset is significantly delayed. We show that Bub3p is required to activate the APC upon inhibition of Aurora kinase activity in checkpoint-arrested cells, suggesting that Bub3p is required for efficient checkpoint silencing downstream of Aurora kinase. Together, these results suggest that spindle checkpoint signals can be amplified in the nucleoplasm, yet kinetochore localization of spindle checkpoint components is required for proper recovery from a spindle checkpoint-dependent arrest.
PMCID: PMC2793287  PMID: 19846658
11.  Mad2 Haploinsufficiency Protects Hematopoietic Progenitor Cells Subjected to Cell Cycle Stress In Vivo and to Inhibition of Redox Function of Ape1/Ref-1 In Vitro 
Experimental hematology  2011;39(4):415-423.
Cell cycle checkpoints guarantee movement through the cell cycle. Mitotic arrest deficiency 2 (Mad2), a mitotic checkpoint protein, appears crucial for generating the wait anaphase signal to prevent onset of anaphase. We evaluated effects of Mad2 haploinsufficiency on hematopoietic stem (HSC) and progenitor (HPC) function in response to stress.
Materials and Methods
We studied effects of Mad2+/− on in vivo recovery of bone marrow HPC from cytotoxic effects and also effects of cytostatic agents on HPC growth in vitro using Mad2+/− mice.
Mad2+/− HPCs were protected from cytotoxic effects in vivo of a cell cycle specific agent, Ara-C, events consistent with Mad2+/− HPCs being in a slow or noncycling state, but not from recovery of functional HPC after treatment with non-cycle specific cyclophosphamide or sub-lethal irradiation. There were no differences in phenotyped HSCs in Mad2+/− & Mad2+/+ mice, information confirmed by no changes in short or long term repopulating HSC assay. To better understand Mad2+/− HPC function, E3330, a cytostatic agent, was used to assess redox function of Ape1/Ref-1; colony growth was examined under 5% and 20% O2 tension. Mad2+/− HPCs were less responsive to E3330 than Mad2+/+ HPCs, and E3330 was more effective under lowered O2 tension. Mad2+/− HPCs were not enhanced at lowered oxygen, as were Mad2+/+ HPCs.
Our studies have unexpectedly found that Mad2 haploinsufficiency is protective in the presence of a cycle specific DNA synthesis agent in vivo, and Ape1/Ref-1 inhibitor in vitro.
PMCID: PMC3062656  PMID: 21216274
12.  Cell cycle control, checkpoint mechanisms, and genotoxic stress. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  1999;107(Suppl 1):5-24.
The ability of cells to maintain genomic integrity is vital for cell survival and proliferation. Lack of fidelity in DNA replication and maintenance can result in deleterious mutations leading to cell death or, in multicellular organisms, cancer. The purpose of this review is to discuss the known signal transduction pathways that regulate cell cycle progression and the mechanisms cells employ to insure DNA stability in the face of genotoxic stress. In particular, we focus on mammalian cell cycle checkpoint functions, their role in maintaining DNA stability during the cell cycle following exposure to genotoxic agents, and the gene products that act in checkpoint function signal transduction cascades. Key transitions in the cell cycle are regulated by the activities of various protein kinase complexes composed of cyclin and cyclin-dependent kinase (Cdk) molecules. Surveillance control mechanisms that check to ensure proper completion of early events and cellular integrity before initiation of subsequent events in cell cycle progression are referred to as cell cycle checkpoints and can generate a transient delay that provides the cell more time to repair damage before progressing to the next phase of the cycle. A variety of cellular responses are elicited that function in checkpoint signaling to inhibit cyclin/Cdk activities. These responses include the p53-dependent and p53-independent induction of Cdk inhibitors and the p53-independent inhibitory phosphorylation of Cdk molecules themselves. Eliciting proper G1, S, and G2 checkpoint responses to double-strand DNA breaks requires the function of the Ataxia telangiectasia mutated gene product. Several human heritable cancer-prone syndromes known to alter DNA stability have been found to have defects in checkpoint surveillance pathways. Exposures to several common sources of genotoxic stress, including oxidative stress, ionizing radiation, UV radiation, and the genotoxic compound benzo[a]pyrene, elicit cell cycle checkpoint responses that show both similarities and differences in their molecular signaling.
PMCID: PMC1566366  PMID: 10229703
13.  Phosphorylation of the Bloom's Syndrome Helicase and Its Role in Recovery from S-Phase Arrest 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(3):1279-1291.
Bloom's syndrome (BS) is a human genetic disorder associated with cancer predisposition. The BS gene product, BLM, is a member of the RecQ helicase family, which is required for the maintenance of genome stability in all organisms. In budding and fission yeasts, loss of RecQ helicase function confers sensitivity to inhibitors of DNA replication, such as hydroxyurea (HU), by failure to execute normal cell cycle progression following recovery from such an S-phase arrest. We have examined the role of the human BLM protein in recovery from S-phase arrest mediated by HU and have probed whether the stress-activated ATR kinase, which functions in checkpoint signaling during S-phase arrest, plays a role in the regulation of BLM function. We show that, consistent with a role for BLM in protection of human cells against the toxicity associated with arrest of DNA replication, BS cells are hypersensitive to HU. BLM physically associates with ATR (ataxia telangiectasia and rad3+ related) protein and is phosphorylated on two residues in the N-terminal domain, Thr-99 and Thr-122, by this kinase. Moreover, BS cells ectopically expressing a BLM protein containing phosphorylation-resistant T99A/T122A substitutions fail to adequately recover from an HU-induced replication blockade, and the cells subsequently arrest at a caffeine-sensitive G2/M checkpoint. These abnormalities are not associated with a failure of the BLM-T99A/T122A protein to localize to replication foci or to colocalize either with ATR itself or with other proteins that are required for response to DNA damage, such as phosphorylated histone H2AX and RAD51. Our data indicate that RecQ helicases play a conserved role in recovery from perturbations in DNA replication and are consistent with a model in which RecQ helicases act to restore productive DNA replication following S-phase arrest and hence prevent subsequent genomic instability.
PMCID: PMC321429  PMID: 14729972
14.  Cell cycle checkpoint regulators reach a zillion 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(10):1501-1509.
Entry into mitosis is regulated by a checkpoint at the boundary between the G2 and M phases of the cell cycle (G2/M). In many organisms, this checkpoint surveys DNA damage and cell size and is controlled by both the activation of mitotic cyclin-dependent kinases (Cdks) and the inhibition of an opposing phosphatase, protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A). Misregulation of mitotic entry can often lead to oncogenesis or cell death. Recent research has focused on discovering the signaling pathways that feed into the core checkpoint control mechanisms dependent on Cdk and PP2A. Herein, we review the conserved mechanisms of the G2/M transition, including recently discovered upstream signaling pathways that link cell growth and DNA replication to cell cycle progression. Critical consideration of the human, frog and yeast models of mitotic entry frame unresolved and emerging questions in this field, providing a prediction of signaling molecules and pathways yet to be discovered.
PMCID: PMC3680530  PMID: 23598718
G2/M; mitotic entry; G2/M checkpoint; protein phosphatase 2A; cyclin-dependent kinase; Zds proteins; Greatwall kinase
15.  Ensuring the faithful execution of cytokinesis in Schizosaccharomyces pombe 
Eukaryotic cells ensure error-free progress through the cell cycle by monitoring (1) the completion of cell cycle events, (2) damage to critical cellular components, or (3) structural changes such as the attachment of kinetochores to the mitotic spindle. In the presence of damage, or in the face of a reduced capacity to complete essential events, cells are capable of delaying the cell cycle so that damage can be repaired, or previous cell cycle phases can proceed to completion. Although such “checkpoints” have been extensively studied in many organisms—and much is understood with respect to the monitoring of DNA replication and DNA damage—little is known with regards to mechanisms that might monitor the completion of cytokinesis. In this review I summarize recent work from the fission yeast, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, describing the existence of regulatory modules that aid in ensuring the faithful and reliable execution of cytokinesis. Together, these modules promote the maintenance of a “cytokinesis-competent” state characterized by delayed progression into mitosis and the continuous repair and/or re-establishment of the acto-myosin ring. In this way, fission yeast cells are able to increase the likelihood of successful cell division prior to committing to a subsequent cell cycle. The recent demonstration of conservation between S. pombe components of these modules, and human proteins with defined roles in preventing cell division failure, suggest that the lessons learned in S. pombe may be applicable to other eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC3419111  PMID: 22896789
cytokinesis; fission yeast; genomic integrity; cell division; cytokinetic actomyosin ring
16.  Behind the wheel and under the hood: functions of cyclin-dependent kinases in response to DNA damage 
DNA repair  2009;8(9):1018-1024.
Cell division and the response to genotoxic stress are intimately connected in eukaryotes, for example, by checkpoint pathways that signal the presence of DNA damage or its ongoing repair to the cell cycle machinery, leading to reversible arrest or apoptosis. Recent studies reveal another connection: the cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) that govern both DNA synthesis (S) phase and mitosis directly coordinate DNA repair processes with progression through the cell cycle. In both mammalian cells and yeast, the two major modes of double strand break (DSB) repair–homologous recombination (HR) and non-homologous end joining (NHEJ)–are reciprocally regulated during the cell cycle. In yeast, the cell cycle kinase Cdk1 directly promotes DSB repair by HR during the G2 phase. In mammalian cells, loss of Cdk2, the CDK active throughout S and G2 phases, results in defective DNA damage repair and checkpoint signaling. Here we provide an overview of data that implicate CDKs in the regulation of DNA damage responses in yeast and metazoans. In yeast, CDK activity is required at multiple points in the HR pathway; the precise roles of CDKs in mammalian HR have yet to be determined. Finally, we consider how the two different, and in some cases opposing, roles of CDKs—as targets of negative regulation by checkpoint signaling and as positive effectors of repair pathway selection and function—could be balanced to produce a coordinated and effective response to DNA damage.
PMCID: PMC2725215  PMID: 19464967
17.  An Intrinsic Cell Cycle Checkpoint Pathway Mediated by MEK and ERK in Drosophila 
Developmental cell  2006;11(4):575-582.
Cell cycle checkpoints are surveillance mechanisms that safeguard genome integrity. While the extrinsic pathways that halt the cell cycle in response to DNA damages have been well documented, the intrinsic pathways that ensure orderly progression of cell cycle events are not well understood. We demonstrate that Drosophila MEK and ERK constitute an essential intrinsic checkpoint pathway that restrains cell cycle progression in the absence of DNA damage and also responds to ionizing radiation to arrest the cell cycle. Embryos lacking MEK exhibit faster and extra division cycles and fail to undergo timely midblastula transition (MBT) or arrest following ionizing radiation. Conversely, constitutively activated MEK causes cell cycle arrest. Further, MEK activation in the early embryo is cell cycle-dependent and Raf independent and increases in response to ionizing radiation or in the absence of Chk1. Thus, MEK/ERK activation is required for multiple checkpoints and is essential for orderly cell cycle progression.
PMCID: PMC3095892  PMID: 17011495
18.  RB signaling prevents replication-dependent DNA double-strand breaks following genotoxic insult 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(1):25-34.
Cell cycle checkpoints induced by DNA damage play an integral role in preservation of genomic stability by allowing cells to limit the propagation of deleterious mutations. The retinoblastoma tumor suppressor (RB) is crucial for the maintenance of the DNA damage checkpoint function because it elicits cell cycle arrest in response to a variety of genotoxic stresses. Although sporadic loss of RB is characteristic of most cancers and results in the bypass of the DNA damage checkpoint, the consequence of RB loss upon chemotherapeutic responsiveness has been largely uninvestigated. Here, we employed a conditional knockout approach to ablate RB in adult fibroblasts. This system enabled us to examine the DNA damage response of adult cells following acute RB deletion. Using this system, we demonstrated that loss of RB disrupted the DNA damage checkpoint elicited by either cisplatin or camptothecin exposure. Strikingly, this bypass was not associated with enhanced repair, but rather the accumulation of phosphorylated H2AX (γH2AX) foci, which indicate DNA double-strand breaks. The formation of γH2AX foci was due to ongoing replication following chemotherapeutic treatment in the RB-deficient cells. Additionally, peak γH2AX accumulation occurred in S-phase cells undergoing DNA replication in the presence of damage, and these γH2AX foci co-localized with replication foci. These results demonstrate that acute RB loss abrogates DNA damage-induced cell cycle arrest to induce γH2AX foci formation. Thus, secondary genetic lesions induced by RB loss have implications for the chemotherapeutic response and the development of genetic instability.
PMCID: PMC373257  PMID: 14704340
19.  The Functions of Budding Yeast Sae2 in the DNA Damage Response Require Mec1- and Tel1-Dependent Phosphorylation 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(10):4151-4165.
DNA damage checkpoint pathways sense DNA lesions and transduce the signals into appropriate biological responses, including cell cycle arrest, induction of transcriptional programs, and modification or activation of repair factors. Here we show that the Saccharomyces cerevisiae Sae2 protein, known to be involved in processing meiotic and mitotic double-strand breaks, is required for proper recovery from checkpoint-mediated cell cycle arrest after DNA damage and is phosphorylated periodically during the unperturbed cell cycle and in response to DNA damage. Both cell cycle- and DNA damage-dependent Sae2 phosphorylation requires the main checkpoint kinase, Mec1, and the upstream components of its pathway, Ddc1, Rad17, Rad24, and Mec3. Another pathway, involving Tel1 and the MRX complex, is also required for full DNA damage-induced Sae2 phosphorylation, that is instead independent of the downstream checkpoint transducers Rad53 and Chk1, as well as of their mediators Rad9 and Mrc1. Mutations altering all the favored ATM/ATR phosphorylation sites of Sae2 not only abolish its in vivo phosphorylation after DNA damage but also cause hypersensitivity to methyl methanesulfonate treatment, synthetic lethality with RAD27 deletion, and decreased rates of mitotic recombination between inverted Alu repeats, suggesting that checkpoint-mediated phosphorylation of Sae2 is important to support its repair and recombination functions.
PMCID: PMC400471  PMID: 15121837
20.  Determinants of Swe1p Degradation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2002;13(10):3560-3575.
Swe1p, the sole Wee1-family kinase in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is synthesized during late G1 and is then degraded as cells proceed through the cell cycle. However, Swe1p degradation is halted by the morphogenesis checkpoint, which responds to insults that perturb bud formation. The Swe1p stabilization promotes cell cycle arrest through Swe1p-mediated inhibitory phosphorylation of Cdc28p until the cells can recover from the perturbation and resume bud formation. Swe1p degradation involves the relocalization of Swe1p from the nucleus to the mother-bud neck, and neck targeting requires the Swe1p-interacting protein Hsl7p. In addition, Swe1p degradation is stimulated by its substrate, cyclin/Cdc28p, and Swe1p is thought to be a target of the ubiquitin ligase SCFMet30 acting with the ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme Cdc34p. The basis for regulation of Swe1p degradation by the morphogenesis checkpoint remains unclear, and in order to elucidate that regulation we have dissected the Swe1p degradation pathway in more detail, yielding several novel findings. First, we show here that Met30p (and by implication SCFMet30) is not, in fact, required for Swe1p degradation. Second, cyclin/Cdc28p does not influence Swe1p neck targeting, but can directly phosphorylate Swe1p, suggesting that it acts downstream of neck targeting in the Swe1p degradation pathway. Third, a screen for functional but nondegradable mutants of SWE1 identified two small regions of Swe1p that are key to its degradation. One of these regions mediates interaction of Swe1p with Hsl7p, showing that the Swe1p-Hsl7p interaction is critical for Swe1p neck targeting and degradation. The other region did not appear to affect interactions with known Swe1p regulators, suggesting that other as-yet-unknown regulators exist.
PMCID: PMC129966  PMID: 12388757
21.  Dissection of the XChk1 Signaling Pathway in Xenopus laevis Embryos 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2000;11(9):3101-3108.
Checkpoint pathways inhibit cyclin-dependent kinases (Cdks) to arrest cell cycles when DNA is damaged or unreplicated. Early embryonic cell cycles of Xenopus laevis lack these checkpoints. Completion of 12 divisions marks the midblastula transition (MBT), when the cell cycle lengthens, acquiring gap phases and checkpoints of a somatic cell cycle. Although Xenopus embryos lack checkpoints prior to the MBT, checkpoints are observed in cell-free egg extracts supplemented with sperm nuclei. These checkpoints depend upon the Xenopus Chk1 (XChk1)-signaling pathway. To understand why Xenopus embryos lack checkpoints, xchk1 was cloned, and its expression was examined and manipulated in Xenopus embryos. Although XChk1 mRNA is degraded at the MBT, XChk1 protein persists throughout development, including pre-MBT cell cycles that lack checkpoints. However, when DNA replication is blocked, XChk1 is activated only after stage 7, two cell cycles prior to the MBT. Likewise, DNA damage activates XChk1 only after the MBT. Furthermore, overexpression of XChk1 in Xenopus embryos creates a checkpoint in which cell division arrests, and both Cdc2 and Cdk2 are phosphorylated on tyrosine 15 and inhibited in catalytic activity. These data indicate that XChk1 signaling is intact but blocked upstream of XChk1 until the MBT.
PMCID: PMC14978  PMID: 10982403
22.  Spindle assembly checkpoint: the third decade 
The spindle assembly checkpoint controls cell cycle progression during mitosis, synchronizing it with the attachment of chromosomes to spindle microtubules. After the discovery of the mitotic arrest deficient (MAD) and budding uninhibited by benzymidazole (BUB) genes as crucial checkpoint components in 1991, the second decade of checkpoint studies (2001–2010) witnessed crucial advances in the elucidation of the mechanism through which the checkpoint effector, the mitotic checkpoint complex, targets the anaphase-promoting complex (APC/C) to prevent progression into anaphase. Concomitantly, the discovery that the Ndc80 complex and other components of the microtubule-binding interface of kinetochores are essential for the checkpoint response finally asserted that kinetochores are crucial for the checkpoint response. Nevertheless, the relationship between kinetochores and checkpoint control remains poorly understood. Crucial advances in this area in the third decade of checkpoint studies (2011–2020) are likely to be brought about by the characterization of the mechanism of kinetochore recruitment, activation and inactivation of checkpoint proteins, which remains elusive for the majority of checkpoint components. Here, we take a molecular view on the main challenges hampering this task.
PMCID: PMC3203455  PMID: 22084386
spindle assembly checkpoint; kinetochore; cell cycle; Aurora B; KMN network
23.  Human cells enter mitosis with damaged DNA after treatment with pharmacological concentrations of genotoxic agents 
Biochemical Journal  2012;446(Pt 3):373-381.
In the present paper, we report that mitosis is a key step in the cellular response to genotoxic agents in human cells. Cells with damaged DNA recruit γH2AX (phosphorylated histone H2AX), phosphorylate Chk1 (checkpoint kinase 1) and arrest in the G2-phase of the cell cycle. Strikingly, nearly all cells escape the DNA damage checkpoint and become rounded, by a mechanism that correlates with Chk1 dephosphorylation. The rounded cells are alive and in mitosis as measured by low phospho-Tyr15 Cdk1 (cyclin-dependent kinase 1), high Cdk activity, active Plk1 (Polo-like kinase 1) and high phospho-histone H3 signals. This phenomenon is independent of the type of DNA damage, but is dependent on pharmacologically relevant doses of genotoxicity. Entry into mitosis is likely to be caused by checkpoint adaptation, and the HT-29 cell-based model provides a powerful experimental system in which to explore its molecular basis. We propose that mitosis with damaged DNA is a biologically significant event because it may cause genomic rearrangement in cells that survive genotoxic damage.
PMCID: PMC3430003  PMID: 22686412
camptothecin; checkpoint adaptation; checkpoint kinase 1 (Chk1); cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (Cdk1); mitosis; mitotic catastrophe; Cdk, cyclin-dependent kinase; Chk1, checkpoint kinase 1; CPT, camptothecin; DAPI, 4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole; GST, glutathione transferase; γH2AX, phosphorylated histone H2AX; IDC, interphasic and DNA-damaged cell; MDC, mitotic and DNA-damaged cell; MTT, 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl-2H-tetrazolium bromide; Plk1, Polo-like kinase 1; PP1a, protein phosphatase 1α; TBST, Tris-buffered saline with Tween 20; TDC, total and DNA-damaged cell
24.  Cyclin-dependent kinases (cdks) and the DNA damage response: rationale for cdk inhibitor–chemotherapy combinations as an anticancer strategy for solid tumors 
Expert opinion on therapeutic targets  2010;14(11):1199-1212.
Importance of the field
The eukaryotic cell division cycle is a tightly regulated series of events coordinated by the periodic activation of multiple cyclin-dependent kinases (cdks). Small-molecule cdk-inhibitory compounds have demonstrated preclinical synergism with DNA-damaging agents in solid tumor models. An improved understanding of how cdks regulate the DNA damage response now provides an opportunity for optimization of combinations of cdk inhibitors and DNA damaging chemotherapy agents that can be translated to clinical settings.
Areas covered in this review
Here, we discuss novel work uncovering multiple roles for cdks in the DNA-damage-response network. First, they activate DNA damage checkpoint and repair pathways. Later their activity is turned off, resulting in cell cycle arrest, allowing time for DNA repair to occur. Recent clinical data on cdk inhibitor–DNA-damaging agent combinations are also discussed.
What the reader will gain
Readers will learn about novel areas of cdk biology, the complexity of DNA damage signaling networks and clinical implications.
Take home message
New data demonstrate that cdks are ‘master’ regulators of DNA damage checkpoint and repair pathways. Cdk inhibition may therefore provide a means of potentiating the clinical activity of DNA-damaging chemotherapeutic agents for the treatment of cancer.
PMCID: PMC3957489  PMID: 20932174
chemotherapy; cyclin-dependent kinase; DNA damage
25.  DNA Damage activates A Spatially Distinct Late Cytoplasmic Cell Cycle Checkpoint Network Controlled by MK2-mediated RNA Stabilization 
Molecular cell  2010;40(1):34-49.
Following genotoxic stress, cells activate a complex kinase-based signaling network to arrest the cell cycle and initiate DNA repair. p53-defective tumor cells rewire their checkpoint response and become dependent on the p38/MK2 pathway for survival after DNA damage, despite a functional ATR-Chk1 pathway. We used functional genetics to dissect the contributions of Chk1 and MK2 to checkpoint control. We show that nuclear Chk1 activity is essential to establish a G2/M checkpoint, while cytoplasmic MK2 activity is critical for prolonged checkpoint maintenance through a process of post-transcriptional mRNA stabilization. Following DNA damage, the p38/MK2 complex relocalizes from nucleus to cytoplasm where MK2, phosphorylates hnRNPA0, to stabilize Gadd45α mRNA, while p38 phosphorylates and releases the translational inhibitor TIAR. In addition, MK2 phosphorylates PARN, blocking Gadd45α mRNA degradation. Gadd45α functions within a positive feedback loop, sustaining the MK2-dependent cytoplasmic sequestration of Cdc25B/C to block mitotic entry in the presence of unrepaired DNA damage. Our findings demonstrate a critical role for the MK2 pathway in the post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression as part of the DNA damage response in cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3030122  PMID: 20932473

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