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Mol Cell Biol. 1990 Dec; 10(12): 6460–6471.
PMCID: PMC362923

A DNA-activated protein kinase from HeLa cell nuclei.


A DNA-activated protein kinase (DNA-PK) was purified from nuclei of HeLa cells. Activity was associated with a single high-molecular-mass (approximately-300,000 Da) polypeptide when analyzed by gel filtration, denaturing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, and Western immunoblotting using a monoclonal antibody that also inhibits enzyme activity. Nuclear localization was indicated by subcellular fractionation and confirmed by immunofluorescence on whole cells. Double-stranded DNA stimulated phosphorylation of the 300-kDa polypeptide in purified preparations as well as phosphorylation of the exogenous substrates alpha-casein, simian virus 40 large T antigen, and the human heat shock protein hsp90. Autophosphorylation led to inactivation of the enzyme. The phosphorylation of casein was stimulated over 30-fold by DNA and was specific for serine and threonine residues. Bovine serum albumin and histone H1 were poor substrates for DNA-PK, and no phosphorylation of immunoglobulin G or histones other than H1 was observed. Supercoiled or heat-denatured DNA and synthetic double-stranded RNA or RNA-DNA copolymers did not stimulate casein phosphorylation by DNA-PK. Interaction of the enzyme with DNA in the absence of exogenous substrates was demonstrated by thermal inactivation and gel mobility shifts. These characteristics identify DNA-PK as distinct from other protein kinases described in the literature and suggest that activation by DNA is an important feature of the enzyme's in vivo function.

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