The functional significance of the signaling pathway induced by O(6)-methylguanine (O(6)-MeG) lesions is poorly understood. Here, we identify the p50 subunit of NF-κB as a central target in the response to O(6)-MeG and demonstrate that p50 is required for S(N)1-methylator-induced cytotoxicity. In response to S(N)1-methylation, p50 facilitates the inhibition of NF-κB-regulated antiapoptotic gene expression. Inhibition of NF-κB activity is noted to be an S phase-specific phenomenon that requires the formation of O(6)-MeG:T mismatches. Chk1 associates with p50 following S(N)1-methylation, and phosphorylation of p50 by Chk1 results in the inhibition of NF-κB DNA binding. Expression of an unphosphorylatable p50 mutant blocks inhibition of NF-κB-regulated antiapoptotic gene expression and attenuates S(N)1-methylator-induced cytotoxicity. While O(6)-MeG:T-induced, p50-dependent signaling is not sufficient to induce cell death, this pathway sensitizes cells to the cytotoxic effects of DNA breaks.
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