Human cancer cells require ATR for cell cycle progression following exposure to ionizing radiation

Oncogene. 2007 Apr 19;26(18):2535-42. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1210049. Epub 2006 Oct 16.


The vast majority of cancer cells have defective checkpoints that permit the cell cycle to progress in the presence of double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs) caused by ionizing radiation (IR) and radiomimetic drugs. ATR (ataxia telangiectasia-mutated and Rad3-related) has recently been shown to be activated by DSBs, although the consequences of this activity are largely unknown. In this report, we use advanced gene targeting methods to generate biallelic hypomorphic ATR mutations in human colorectal cancer cells and demonstrate that progression of the cancer cell cycle after IR treatment requires ATR. Cells with mutant ATR accumulated at a defined point at the beginning of the S phase after IR treatment and were unable to progress beyond that point, whereas cells at later stages of the S phase during the time of irradiation progressed and completed DNA replication. The prolonged arrest of ATR mutant cancer cells did not involve the ataxia telangiectasia mutated-dependent S-phase checkpoint, but rather closely resembled a previously characterized form of cell cycle arrest termed S-phase stasis. As ATR strongly contributed to clonogenic survival after IR treatment, these data suggest that blocking ATR activity might be a useful strategy for inducing S-phase stasis and promoting the radiosensitization of checkpoint-deficient cancer cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ataxia Telangiectasia
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / physiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded
  • DNA Repair
  • DNA Replication
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Mutation
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / physiology*
  • Radiation, Ionizing
  • S Phase / physiology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / radiation effects


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • ATR protein, human
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases