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J Biol Chem. 2008 Sep 12;283(37):25171-7. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M802851200. Epub 2008 Jul 14.

ATR-dependent activation of p38 MAP kinase is responsible for apoptotic cell death in cells depleted of Cdc7.

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Department of Biology Education, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.


Cdc7 is a serine/threonine kinase that plays essential roles in the initiation of eukaryotic DNA replication and checkpoint response. In previous studies, depletion of Cdc7 by small interfering RNA was shown to induce an abortive S phase that led to the cell cycle arrest in normal human fibroblasts and apoptotic cell death in various cancer cells. Here we report that stress-activated p38 MAP kinase was activated and responsible for apoptotic cell death in Cdc7-depleted HeLa cells. The activation of p38 MAP kinase in the Cdc7-depleted cells was shown to depend on ATR, a major sensor kinase for checkpoint or DNA damage responses. Only the p38 MAP kinase, and not the other stress-activated kinases such as JNK or ERK, was activated, and both caspase 8 and caspase 9 were activated for the induction of apoptosis. Activation of apoptosis in Cdc7-depleted cells was completely abolished in cells treated with small interfering RNA or an inhibitor of the p38 MAP kinase, suggesting that p38 MAP kinase activation was responsible for apoptotic cell death. Taken together, we suggest that the ATR-dependent activation of the p38 MAP kinase is a major signaling pathway that induces apoptotic cell death after depletion of Cdc7 in cancer cells.

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