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Radiat Res. 2003 Sep;160(3):309-17.

Dephosphorylation of histone gamma-H2AX during repair of DNA double-strand breaks in mammalian cells and its inhibition by calyculin A.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry, University of California Davis School of Medicine, Davis, California 95616, USA.


The induction of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) by ionizing radiation in mammalian chromosomes leads to the phosphorylation of Ser-139 in the replacement histone H2AX, but the molecular mechanism(s) of the elimination of phosphorylated H2AX (called gamma-H2AX) from chromatin in the course of DSB repair remains unknown. We showed earlier that gamma-H2AX cannot be replaced by exchange with free H2AX, suggesting the direct dephosphorylation of H2AX in chromatin by a protein phosphatase. Here we studied the dynamics of dephosphorylation of gamma-H2AX in vivo and found that more than 50% was dephosphorylated in 3 h, but a significant amount of gamma-H2AX could be detected even 6 h after the induction of DSBs. At this time, a significant fraction of the gamma-H2AX nuclear foci co-localized with the foci of RAD50 protein that did not co-localize with replication sites. However, gamma-H2AX could be detected in some cells treated with methyl methanesulfonate which accumulated RAD18 protein at stalled replication sites. We also found that calyculin A inhibited early elimination of gamma-H2AX and DSB rejoining in vivo and that protein phosphatase 1 was able to remove phosphate groups from gamma-H2AX-containing chromatin in vitro. Our results confirm the tight association between DSBs and gamma-H2AX and the coupling of its in situ dephosphorylation to DSB repair.

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