Cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) has been identified as a determinant of sensitivity to poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors. Here, the consequences of its depletion on cell survival, PARP activity, the recruitment of base excision repair (BER) proteins to DNA damage sites, and overall DNA single-strand break (SSB) repair were investigated using isogenic HeLa stably depleted (KD) and Control cell lines. Synthetic lethality achieved by disrupting PARP activity in Cdk5-deficient cells was confirmed, and the Cdk5KD cells were also found to be sensitive to the killing effects of ionizing radiation (IR) but not methyl methanesulfonate or neocarzinostatin. The recruitment profiles of GFP-PARP-1 and XRCC1-YFP to sites of micro-irradiated Cdk5KD cells were slower and reached lower maximum values, while the profile of GFP-PCNA recruitment was faster and attained higher maximum values compared to Control cells. Higher basal, IR, and hydrogen peroxide-induced polymer levels were observed in Cdk5KD compared to Control cells. Recruitment of GFP-PARP-1 in which serines 782, 785, and 786, potential Cdk5 phosphorylation targets, were mutated to alanines in micro-irradiated Control cells was also reduced. We hypothesize that Cdk5-dependent PARP-1 phosphorylation on one or more of these serines results in an attenuation of its ribosylating activity facilitating persistence at DNA damage sites. Despite these deficiencies, Cdk5KD cells are able to effectively repair SSBs probably via the long patch BER pathway, suggesting that the enhanced radiation sensitivity of Cdk5KD cells is due to a role of Cdk5 in other pathways or the altered polymer levels.
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