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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jan 26;107(4):1506-11. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0907763107. Epub 2010 Jan 4.

ATM is down-regulated by N-Myc-regulated microRNA-421.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) is a high molecular weight protein serine/threonine kinase that plays a central role in the maintenance of genomic integrity by activating cell cycle checkpoints and promoting repair of DNA double-strand breaks. Little is known about the regulatory mechanisms for ATM expression itself. MicroRNAs are naturally existing regulators that modulate gene expression in a sequence-specific manner. Here, we show that a human microRNA, miR-421, suppresses ATM expression by targeting the 3'-untranslated region (3'UTR) of ATM transcripts. Ectopic expression of miR-421 resulted in S-phase cell cycle checkpoint changes and an increased sensitivity to ionizing radiation, creating a cellular phenotype similar to that of cells derived from ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) patients. Blocking the interaction between miR-421 and ATM 3'UTR with an antisense morpholino oligonucleotide rescued the defective phenotype caused by miR-421 overexpression, indicating that ATM mediates the effect of miR-421 on cell cycle checkpoint and radiosensitivity. Overexpression of the N-Myc transcription factor, an oncogene frequently amplified in neuroblastoma, induced miR-421 expression, which, in turn, down-regulated ATM expression, establishing a linear signaling pathway that may contribute to N-Myc-induced tumorigenesis in neuroblastoma. Taken together, our findings implicate a previously undescribed regulatory mechanism for ATM expression and ATM-dependent DNA damage response and provide several potential targets for treating neuroblastoma and perhaps A-T.

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