DNA damage encountered by DNA replication forks poses risks of genome destabilization, a precursor to carcinogenesis. Damage checkpoint systems cause cell cycle arrest, promote repair and induce programed cell death when damage is severe. Checkpoints are critical parts of the DNA damage response network that act to suppress cancer. DNA damage and perturbation of replication machinery causes replication stress, characterized by accumulation of single-stranded DNA bound by replication protein A (RPA), which triggers activation of ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3 related (ATR) and phosphorylation of the RPA32, subunit of RPA, leading to Chk1 activation and arrest. DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) [a kinase related to ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) and ATR] has well characterized roles in DNA double-strand break repair, but poorly understood roles in replication stress-induced RPA phosphorylation. We show that DNA-PKcs mutant cells fail to arrest replication following stress, and mutations in RPA32 phosphorylation sites targeted by DNA-PKcs increase the proportion of cells in mitosis, impair ATR signaling to Chk1 and confer a G2/M arrest defect. Inhibition of ATR and DNA-PK (but not ATM), mimic the defects observed in cells expressing mutant RPA32. Cells expressing mutant RPA32 or DNA-PKcs show sustained H2AX phosphorylation in response to replication stress that persists in cells entering mitosis, indicating inappropriate mitotic entry with unrepaired damage.
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