Regulation of ATM in DNA double strand break repair accounts for the radiosensitivity in human cells exposed to high linear energy transfer ionizing radiation

Lian Xue, Dong Yu, Yoshiya Furusawa, Ryuichi Okayasu, Jian Tong, Jianping Cao, Saijun Fan
Mutation Research 2009 November 2, 670 (1): 15-23
High linear energy transfer (LET) radiation shows different biological effects from low-LET radiation. The complex nature of high LET radiation-induced damage, especially the clustered DNA damage, brings about slow repair of DNA double strand breaks (DSBs), which finally lead to higher lethality and chromosome aberration. Ionizing radiation (IR) induced DNA DSBs are repaired by both non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) and homologous recombination repair (HRR) pathways in mammalian cells. The novel function of ataxia telangiectasia-mutated (ATM) protein is its involvement in the DSB repair of slow kinetics for "dirty" breaks rejoining by NHEJ, this suggests that ATM may play a more important role in high LET radiation-induced DNA damage. We show here that KU55933, an ATM inhibitor could distinctly lower the clonogenic survival in normal human skin fibroblast cells exposed to carbon ion radiation and dramatically impair the normal process for DSB repair. We also implicated the involvement of ATM in the two pathways of DNA DSB repair, with DNA-PKcs and Rad51 as the representative proteins. The phosphorylation of DNA-PKcs at Thr-2609 with both immunoblotting and immunofluorescent staining indicated an ATM-dependent change, while for Rad51, KU55933 pretreatment could postpone the formation of nuclear Rad51 foci. Interestingly, we also found that pretreatment with chloroquine, an ATM stimulator could protect cells from carbon ion radiation only at lower doses. For doses over 1Gy, protection was no longer observed. There was a dose-dependent increase for ATM kinase activity, with saturation at about 1Gy. Chloroquine pretreatment prior to 1Gy of carbon ion radiation did not enhance the autophosphorylation of ATM at serine 1981. The function of ATM in G2/M checkpoint arrest facilitated DSB repair in high-LET irradiation. Our results provide a possible mechanism for the direct involvement of ATM in DSB repair by high-LET irradiation.


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