Mass spectrometry-based quantification of the cellular response to methyl methanesulfonate treatment in human cells

DNA Repair (Amst). 2014 Mar;15:29-38. doi: 10.1016/j.dnarep.2013.12.007. Epub 2014 Jan 22.


Faithful transmission of genetic material is essential for cell viability and organism health. The occurrence of DNA damage, due to either spontaneous events or environmental agents, threatens the integrity of the genome. The consequences of these insults, if allowed to perpetuate and accumulate over time, are mutations that can lead to the development of diseases such as cancer. Alkylation is a relevant DNA lesion produced endogenously as well as by exogenous agents including certain chemotherapeutics. We sought to better understand the cellular response to this form of DNA damage using mass spectrometry-based proteomics. For this purpose, we performed sub-cellular fractionation to monitor the effect of methyl methanesulfonate (MMS) treatment on protein localization to chromatin. The levels of over 500 proteins were increased in the chromatin-enriched nuclear lysate including histone chaperones. Levels of ubiquitin and subunits of the proteasome were also increased within this fraction, suggesting that ubiquitin-mediated degradation by the proteasome has an important role in the chromatin response to MMS treatment. Finally, the levels of some proteins were decreased within the chromatin-enriched lysate including components of the nuclear pore complex. Our spatial proteomics data demonstrate that many proteins that influence chromatin organization are regulated in response to MMS treatment, presumably to open the DNA to allow access by other DNA damage response proteins. To gain further insight into the cellular response to MMS-induced DNA damage, we also performed phosphorylation enrichment on total cell lysates to identify proteins regulated via post-translational modification. Phosphoproteomic analysis demonstrated that many nuclear phosphorylation events were decreased in response to MMS treatment. This reflected changes in protein kinase and/or phosphatase activity in response to DNA damage rather than changes in total protein abundance. Using these two mass spectrometry-based approaches, we have identified a novel set of MMS-responsive proteins that will expand our understanding of DNA damage signaling.

Keywords: Chromatin; MMS; Mass spectrometry; Phosphorylation; Proteomics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating / toxicity*
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA Repair*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Methyl Methanesulfonate / toxicity*
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Proteome / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating
  • Chromatin
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Proteome
  • Methyl Methanesulfonate