DNA-double strand breaks activate the serine/threonine protein kinase ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) to initiate DNA damage signal transduction. This activation process involves autophosphorylation and dissociation of inert ATM dimers into monomers that are catalytically active. Using single-particle electron microscopy (EM), we determined the structure of dimeric ATM in its resting state. The EM map could accommodate the crystal structure of the N-terminal truncated mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), a closely related enzyme of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-related protein kinase (PIKK) family, allowing for the localization of the N- and the C-terminal regions of ATM. In the dimeric structure, the actives sites are buried, restricting the access of the substrates to these sites. The unanticipated domain organization of ATM provides a basis for understanding its mechanism of inhibition.
Keywords: ATM kinase; DNA damage; DNA damage response; PIKK; ataxia telangiectasia; electron microscopy (EM); post-translational modification (PTM).