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J Biol Chem. 2001 Mar 30;276(13):9896-902. Epub 2001 Jan 4.

Requirements for the nucleolytic processing of DNA ends by the Werner syndrome protein-Ku70/80 complex.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90033, USA.


Werner syndrome (WS) is an inherited disease characterized by premature onset of aging, increased cancer incidence, and genomic instability. The WS gene encodes a protein with helicase and exonuclease activities. Our previous studies indicated that the Werner syndrome protein (WRN) interacts with Ku, a heterodimeric factor of 70- and 80-kDa subunits implicated in the repair of double strand DNA breaks. Moreover, we demonstrated that Ku70/80 strongly stimulates and alters WRN exonuclease activity. In this report, we investigate further the association between WRN and Ku70/80. First, using various WRN deletion mutants we show that 50 amino acids at the amino terminus are required and sufficient to interact with Ku70/80. In addition, our data indicate that the region of Ku80 between amino acids 215 and 276 is necessary for binding to WRN. Then, we show that the amino-terminal region of WRN from amino acid 1 to 388, which comprise the exonuclease domain, can be efficiently stimulated by Ku to degrade DNA substrates, indicating that the helicase domain and the carboxyl-terminal tail are not required for the stimulatory process. Finally, using gel shift assays, we demonstrate that Ku recruits WRN to DNA. Taken together, these results suggest that Ku-mediated activation of WRN exonuclease activity may play an important role in a cellular pathway that requires processing of DNA ends.

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