he MRE11/RAD50/NBS1 (MRN) complex plays a central role as a sensor of DNA double strand breaks (DSB) and is responsible for the efficient activation of ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) kinase. Once activated ATM in turn phosphorylates RAD50 and NBS1, important for cell cycle control, DNA repair and cell survival. We report here that MRE11 is also phosphorylated by ATM at S676 and S678 in response to agents that induce DNA DSB, is dependent on the presence of NBS1, and does not affect the association of members of the complex or ATM activation. A phosphosite mutant (MRE11S676AS678A) cell line showed decreased cell survival and increased chromosomal aberrations after radiation exposure indicating a defect in DNA repair. Use of GFP-based DNA repair reporter substrates in MRE11S676AS678A cells revealed a defect in homology directed repair (HDR) but single strand annealing was not affected. More detailed investigation revealed that MRE11S676AS678A cells resected DNA ends to a greater extent at sites undergoing HDR. Furthermore, while ATM-dependent phosphorylation of Kap1 and SMC1 was normal in MRE11S676AS678A cells, there was no phosphorylation of Exonuclease 1 consistent with the defect in HDR. These results describe a novel role for ATMdependent phosphorylation of MRE11 in limiting the extent of resection mediated through Exonuclease 1.
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