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Cancer Res. 1997 Jul 15;57(14):2847-50.

Heat inactivation of Ku autoantigen: possible role in hyperthermic radiosensitization.

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Department of Medical Physics, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10021, USA.


Heat shock prior, during, or immediately after ionizing radiation synergistically increases cell killing, a phenomenon termed hyperthermic radiosensitization. Recently, we have shown a constitutive DNA-binding factor in rodent cells that is inactivated by heat shock to be identical to Ku autoantigen. Ku, consisting of an Mr 70,000 (Ku70) and an Mr 86,000 (Ku80) subunit, is a heterodimeric nuclear protein and is the DNA-binding regulatory component of the mammalian DNA-dependent protein kinase DNA-PK. Recent genetic and biochemical studies indicate the involvement of Ku and DNA-PK in DNA double-strand break repair and V(D)J recombination. On the basis of these findings, we propose that heat-induced loss of the DNA-binding activity of Ku may lead to hyperthermic radiosensitization. To test this hypothesis, we examined and compared the DNA-binding activity of Ku, the DNA-PK kinase activity, and hyperthermic radiosensitization in rodent cells immediately after heat shock and during post-heat shock recovery at 37 degrees C. Our results show that the heat-induced loss of Ku-DNA binding activity correlates well with an increased radiosensitivity of the heat-shocked cells, and furthermore, the loss of synergistic interaction between heat and radiation parallels the recovery of the DNA-binding activity of Ku. On the other hand, the heat-induced decrease of DNA-PK activity did not correlate with hyperthermic radiosensitization. Our data, for the first time, provide evidence for a role of Ku protein in modulating the cellular response to combined treatments of heat shock and ionizing radiation.

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