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J Biol Chem. 2013 May 3;288(18):12840-51. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.460378. Epub 2013 Mar 22.

Ataxia telangiectasia-mutated (ATM) kinase activity is regulated by ATP-driven conformational changes in the Mre11/Rad50/Nbs1 (MRN) complex.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712, USA.


The Ataxia Telangiectasia-Mutated (ATM) protein kinase is recruited to sites of double-strand DNA breaks by the Mre11/Rad50/Nbs1 (MRN) complex, which also facilitates ATM monomerization and activation. MRN exists in at least two distinct conformational states, dependent on ATP binding and hydrolysis by the Rad50 protein. Here we use an ATP analog-sensitive form of ATM to determine that ATP binding, but not hydrolysis, by Rad50 is essential for MRN stimulation of ATM. Mre11 nuclease activity is dispensable, although some mutations in the Mre11 catalytic domain block ATM activation independent of nuclease function, as does the mirin compound. The coiled-coil domains of Rad50 are important for the DNA binding ability of MRN and are essential for ATM activation, but loss of the zinc hook connection can be substituted by higher levels of the complex. Nbs1 binds to the "closed" form of the MR complex, promoted by the zinc hook and by ATP binding. Thus the primary role of the hook is to tether Rad50 monomers together, promoting the association of the Rad50 catalytic domains into a form that binds ATP and also binds Nbs1. Collectively, these results show that the ATP-bound form of MRN is the critical conformation for ATM activation.


DNA Repair; Phosphorylation; Phosphorylation Enzymes; Protein Conformation; Protein DNA-Interaction

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