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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Feb 5;110(6):2175-80. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1217781110. Epub 2013 Jan 23.

Nek1 kinase associates with ATR-ATRIP and primes ATR for efficient DNA damage signaling.

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Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


The master checkpoint kinase ATR (ATM and Rad3-related) and its partner ATRIP (ATR-interacting protein) exist as a complex and function together in the DNA damage response. Unexpectedly, we found that the stability of the ATR-ATRIP complex is regulated by an unknown kinase independently of DNA damage. In search for this regulator of ATR-ATRIP, we found that a single member of the NIMA (never in mitosis A)-related kinase family, Nek1, is critical for initiating the ATR response. Upon DNA damage, cells lacking Nek1 failed to efficiently phosphorylate multiple ATR substrates and support ATR autophosphorylation at threnine 1989, one of the earliest events during the ATR response. The ability of Nek1 to promote ATR activation relies on the kinase activity of Nek1 and its interaction with ATR-ATRIP. Importantly, even in undamaged cells, Nek1 is required for maintaining the levels of ATRIP, the association between ATR and ATRIP, and the basal kinase activity of ATR. Thus, as an ATR-associated kinase, Nek1, enhances the stability and activity of ATR-ATRIP before DNA damage, priming ATR-ATRIP for a robust DNA damage response.

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