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1.  Protein kinase CK2 localizes to sites of DNA double-strand break regulating the cellular response to DNA damage 
The DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) is a nuclear complex composed of a large catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) and a heterodimeric DNA-targeting subunit Ku. DNA-PK is a major component of the non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) repair mechanism, which is activated in the presence of DNA double-strand breaks induced by ionizing radiation, reactive oxygen species and radiomimetic drugs. We have recently reported that down-regulation of protein kinase CK2 by siRNA interference results in enhanced cell death specifically in DNA-PKcs-proficient human glioblastoma cells, and this event is accompanied by decreased autophosphorylation of DNA-PKcs at S2056 and delayed repair of DNA double-strand breaks.
In the present study, we show that CK2 co-localizes with phosphorylated histone H2AX to sites of DNA damage and while CK2 gene knockdown is associated with delayed DNA damage repair, its overexpression accelerates this process. We report for the first time evidence that lack of CK2 destabilizes the interaction of DNA-PKcs with DNA and with Ku80 at sites of genetic lesions. Furthermore, we show that CK2 regulates the phosphorylation levels of DNA-PKcs only in response to direct induction of DNA double-strand breaks.
Taken together, these results strongly indicate that CK2 plays a prominent role in NHEJ by facilitating and/or stabilizing the binding of DNA-PKcs and, possibly other repair proteins, to the DNA ends contributing to efficient DNA damage repair in mammalian cells.
PMCID: PMC3316135  PMID: 22404984
2.  FOXO3 signalling links ATM to the p53 apoptotic pathway following DNA damage 
Nature communications  2012;3:1000.
DNA damage as a result of environmental stress is recognized by sensor proteins that trigger repair mechanisms, or, if repair is unsuccessful, initiate apoptosis. Defects in DNA damage-induced apoptosis promote genomic instability and tumorigenesis. The protein ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) is activated by DNA double strand breaks and regulates apoptosis via p53. Here we show that FOXO3 interacts with the ATM-Chk2-p53 complex, augments phosphorylation of the complex and induces the formation of nuclear foci in cells upon DNA damage. FOXO3 is essential for DNA damage-induced apoptosis and conversely FOXO3 requires ATM, Chk2, and phosphorylated p53 isoforms to trigger apoptosis as a result of DNA damage. Under these conditions FOXO3 may also play a role in regulating chromatin retention of phosphorylated p53. These results suggest an essential link between FOXO3 and the ATM-Chk2-p53-mediated apoptotic program following DNA damage.
PMCID: PMC3589124  PMID: 22893124
3.  Mycobacterium tuberculosis Ku can bind to nuclear DNA damage and sensitize mammalian cells to bleomycin sulfate 
Mutagenesis  2011;26(6):795-803.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are effective cancer treatments due to their ability to generate DNA damage. The major lethal lesion is the DNA double-strand break (DSB). Human cells predominantly repair DSBs by non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), which requires Ku70, Ku80, DNA-PKcs, DNA ligase IV and accessory proteins. Repair is initiated by the binding of the Ku heterodimer at the ends of the DSB and this recruits DNA-PKcs, which initiates damage signaling and functions in repair. NHEJ also exists in certain types of bacteria that have dormant phases in their life cycle. The Mycobacterium tuberculosis Ku (Mt-Ku) resembles the DNA-binding domain of human Ku but does not have the N- and C-terminal domains of Ku70/80 that have been implicated in binding mammalian NHEJ repair proteins. The aim of this work was to determine whether Mt-Ku could be used as a tool to bind DSBs in mammalian cells and sensitize cells to DNA damage. We generated a fusion protein (KuEnls) of Mt-Ku, EGFP and a nuclear localization signal that is able to perform bacterial NHEJ and hence bind DSBs. Using transient transfection, we demonstrated that KuEnls is able to bind laser damage in the nucleus of Ku80-deficient cells within 10 sec and remains bound for up to 2 h. The Mt-Ku fusion protein was over-expressed in U2OS cells and this increased the sensitivity of the cells to bleomycin sulfate. Hydrogen peroxide and UV radiation do not predominantly produce DSBs and there was little or no change in sensitivity to these agents. Since in vitro studies were unable to detect binding of Mt-Ku to DNA-PKcs or human Ku70/80, this work suggests that KuEnls sensitizes cells by binding DSBs, preventing human NHEJ. This study indicates that blocking or decreasing the binding of human Ku to DSBs could be a method for enhancing existing cancer treatments.
PMCID: PMC3198890  PMID: 21811007
4.  Requirement of ATM-Dependent Monoubiquitylation of Histone H2B for Timely Repair of DNA Double-Strand Breaks 
Molecular Cell  2011;41(5):529-542.
The cellular response to DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) is mobilized by the protein kinase ATM, which phosphorylates key players in the DNA damage response (DDR) network. A major question is how ATM controls DSB repair. Optimal repair requires chromatin relaxation at damaged sites. Chromatin reorganization is coupled to dynamic alterations in histone posttranslational modifications. Here, we show that in human cells, DSBs induce monoubiquitylation of histone H2B, a modification that is associated in undamaged cells with transcription elongation. We find that this process relies on recruitment to DSB sites and ATM-dependent phosphorylation of the responsible E3 ubiquitin ligase: the RNF20-RNF40 heterodimer. H2B monoubiquitylation is required for timely recruitment of players in the two major DSB repair pathways—nonhomologous end-joining and homologous recombination repair—and optimal repair via both pathways. Our data and previous data suggest a two-stage model for chromatin decondensation that facilitates DSB repair.
PMCID: PMC3397146  PMID: 21362549
5.  Suppression of Non-Homologous End Joining Repair by Overexpression of HMGA2 
Cancer research  2009;69(14):5699-5706.
Understanding the molecular details associated with aberrant high mobility group A2 (HMGA2) gene expression is key to establishing the mechanism(s) underlying its oncogenic potential and impact on the development of therapeutic strategies. Here, we report the involvement of HMGA2 in impairing DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) during the non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) process. We demonstrated that HMGA2-expressing cells displayed deficiency in overall and precise DNA end-joining repair and accumulated more endogenous DNA damage. Proper and timely activation of DNA-PK, consisting of Ku70, Ku80 and DNA-PKcs subunits, is essential for the repair of DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) generated endogenously or by exposure to genotoxins. In cells overexpressing HMGA2, accumulation of histone 2A variant X phosphorylation at Ser-139 (γ-H2AX) was associated with hyper-phosphorylation of DNA-PKcs at Thr-2609 and Ser-2056 before and after the induction of DSBs. Also, the steady-state complex of Ku and DNA ends was altered by HMGA2. Microirradiation and real-time imaging in living cells revealed that HMGA2 delayed the release of DNA-PKcs from DSB sites, similar to observations found in DNA-PKcs mutants. Moreover, HMGA2 alone was sufficient to induce chromosomal aberrations, a hallmark of deficiency in NHEJ-mediated DNA repair. In summary, a novel role for HMGA2 to interfere with NHEJ processes was uncovered, implicating HMGA2 in the promotion of genome instability and tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC2737594  PMID: 19549901
HMGA2; Ku70/80; DNA-PKcs; NHEJ; genome instability
6.  The Ku80 Carboxy Terminus Stimulates Joining and Artemis-Mediated Processing of DNA Ends▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2008;29(5):1134-1142.
Repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) is predominantly mediated by nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) in mammalian cells. NHEJ requires binding of the Ku70-Ku80 heterodimer (Ku70/80) to the DNA ends and subsequent recruitment of the DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKCS) and the XRCC4/ligase IV complex. Activation of the DNA-PKCS serine/threonine kinase requires an interaction with Ku70/80 and is essential for NHEJ-mediated DSB repair. In contrast to previous models, we found that the carboxy terminus of Ku80 is not absolutely required for the recruitment and activation of DNA-PKCS at DSBs, although cells that harbored a carboxy-terminal deletion in the Ku80 gene were sensitive to ionizing radiation and showed reduced end-joining capacity. More detailed analysis of this repair defect showed that DNA-PKCS autophosphorylation at Thr2647 was diminished, while Ser2056 was phosphorylated to normal levels. This resulted in severely reduced levels of Artemis nuclease activity in vivo and in vitro. We therefore conclude that the Ku80 carboxy terminus is important to support DNA-PKCS autophosphorylation at specific sites, which facilitates DNA end processing by the Artemis endonuclease and the subsequent joining reaction.
PMCID: PMC2643835  PMID: 19103741

Results 1-6 (6)