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EMBO Rep. 2011 Jul 1;12(7):713-9. doi: 10.1038/embor.2011.96.

ATM-mediated phosphorylation of polynucleotide kinase/phosphatase is required for effective DNA double-strand break repair.

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  • 1The David and Inez Myers Laboratory for Cancer Genetics, Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.


The cellular response to double-strand breaks (DSBs) in DNA is a complex signalling network, mobilized by the nuclear protein kinase ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM), which phosphorylates many factors in the various branches of this network. A main question is how ATM regulates DSB repair. Here, we identify the DNA repair enzyme polynucleotide kinase/phosphatase (PNKP) as an ATM target. PNKP phosphorylates 5'-OH and dephosphorylates 3'-phosphate DNA ends that are formed at DSB termini caused by DNA-damaging agents, thereby regenerating legitimate ends for further processing. We establish that the ATM phosphorylation targets on human PNKP-Ser 114 and Ser 126-are crucial for cellular survival following DSB induction and for effective DSB repair, being essential for damage-induced enhancement of the activity of PNKP and its proper accumulation at the sites of DNA damage. These findings show a direct functional link between ATM and the DSB-repair machinery.

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