The checkpoint kinase Chk2 is an effector component of the ATM-dependent DNA damage response (DDR) pathway. The activation of Chk2 by genotoxic stress involves its phosphorylation on T68 by ATM and additional auto/transphosphorylations. Here we demonstrate that in unperturbed cells, chemical inhibition of Chk2 by VRX0466617 (VRX) enhances the phosphorylation of Chk2-T68 throughout the cell cycle phases. This event, dependent on the presence of ATM and catalytically functional Chk2, is not consequential to DNA damage, as neither gamma-H2AX nuclear foci nor increased ATM activation is detected in VRX-treated cells, suggesting the involvement of other regulatory proteins. As serine/threonine protein phosphatases (PPs) regulate the phosphorylation and deactivation of proteins of the DDR pathway, we analyzed their role in phospho-T68-Chk2 regulation. We found that intracellular inhibition of PP1 and PP2A-like activities by okadaic acid markedly raised the accumulation of Chk2-pT68 without DNA damage induction, and this phenomenon was also seen when PP1-C, PP2A-C, and Wip1/PPM1D were simultaneously knockdown by siRNA. Altogether, these data indicate a novel mechanism in undamaged cells where PPs function to maintain the balance between ATM and its direct substrate Chk2 through a regulatory circuit.
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