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Oncogene. 2013 Sep 12;32(37):4448-56. doi: 10.1038/onc.2012.443. Epub 2012 Nov 12.

NBN phosphorylation regulates the accumulation of MRN and ATM at sites of DNA double-strand breaks.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA.


In response to ionizing radiation, the MRE11/RAD50/NBN complex re-distributes to the sites of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) where each of its individual components is phosphorylated by the serine-threonine kinase, ATM. ATM phosphorylation of NBN is required for the activation of the S-phase checkpoint, but the mechanism whereby these phosphorylation events signal the checkpoint machinery remains unexplained. Here, we describe the use of direct protein transduction of the homing endonuclease, I-PpoI, into human cells to generate site-specific DSBs. Direct transduction of I-PpoI protein results in rapid accumulation and turnover of the endonuclease in live cells, facilitating comparisons across multiple cell lines. We demonstrate the utility of this system by introducing I-PpoI into isogenic cell lines carrying mutations at the ATM phosphorylation sites in NBN and assaying the effects of these mutations on the spatial distribution and temporal accumulation of NBN and ATM at DSBs by chromatin immunoprecipitation, as well as timing and extent of DSB repair. Although the spatial distribution of NBN and ATM recruited to the sites of DSBs was comparable between control cells and those expressing phosphorylation mutants of NBN, the timing of accumulation of NBN and ATM was altered. Serine-to-alanine mutations that blocked phosphorylation resulted in delayed recruitment of both NBN and ATM to DSBs. Serine-to-glutamic acid substitutions that mimicked the phosphorylation event resulted in both increased and prolonged accumulation of both NBN and ATM at DSBs. The repair of DSBs in cells lacking full-length NBN was significantly delayed compared with control cells, whereas blocking phosphorylation of NBN resulted in a more modest delay in repair. These data indicate that following the induction of DSBs, phosphorylation of NBN regulates its accumulation, and that of ATM, at sites of DNA DSB as well as the timing of the repair of these sites.

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