Damage to cellular macromolecules and organelles by chemical exposure evokes activation of various stress response pathways. To what extent different chemical stressors activate common and stressor-specific pathways is largely unknown. Here, we used quantitative phosphoproteomics to compare the signaling events induced by four stressors with different modes of action: the DNA damaging agent: cisplatin (CDDP), the topoisomerase II inhibitor: etoposide (ETO), the pro-oxidant: diethyl maleate (DEM) and the immunosuppressant: cyclosporine A (CsA) administered at an equitoxic dose to mouse embryonic stem cells. We observed major differences between the stressors in the number and identity of responsive phosphosites and the amplitude of phosphorylation. Kinase motif and pathway analyses indicated that the DNA damage response (DDR) activation by CDDP occurs predominantly through the replication-stress-related Atr kinase, whereas ETO triggers the DDR through Atr as well as the DNA double-strand-break-associated Atm kinase. CsA shares with ETO activation of CK2 kinase. Congruent with their known modes of action, CsA-mediated signaling is related to down-regulation of pathways that control hematopoietic differentiation and immunity, whereas oxidative stress is the most prominent initiator of DEM-modulated stress signaling. This study shows that even at equitoxic doses, different stressors induce distinctive and complex phosphorylation signaling cascades.
Keywords: Cisplatin; Cyclosporine A; Diethyl maleate; Etoposide; Phoshoproteomics; Stress signaling.