The molecular mechanisms of sensing nucleoside analogue-induced DNA damage

Brett J Ewald, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Nucleoside analogues are antimetabolites effective in the treatment of a wide variety of solid tumors and hematological malignancies. Upon being metabolized to their active triphosphate form, these agents are incorporated into DNA during replication or excision repair synthesis. Because DNA polymerases have a greatly decreased affinity for primers terminated by most nucleoside analogues, their incorporation causes stalling of replication forks. The molecular mechanisms that recognize blocked replication may contribute to drug resistance but have not yet been elucidated. Here, several molecules involved in sensing nucleoside analogue-induced stalled replication forks have been identified and examined for their contribution to drug resistance. The phosphorylation of the DNA damage sensor, H2AX, was characterized in response to nucleoside analogues and found to be dependent on both time and drug concentration. This response was most evident in the S-phase fraction and was associated with an inhibition of DNA synthesis, S-phase accumulation, and activation of the S-phase checkpoint pathway (Chk1-Cdc25A-Cdk2). Exposure of the Chk1 inhibitor, 7-hydroxystaurosporine (UCN-01), to cultures previously treated with nucleoside analogues caused increased apoptosis, clonogenic death, and a further log-order increase in H2AX phosphorylation, suggesting enhanced DNA damage. Ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) has been identified as a key DNA damage signaling kinase for initiating cell cycle arrest, DNA repair, and apoptosis while the Mre11-Rad50-Nbs1 (MRN) complex is known for its functions in double-strand break repair. Activated ATM and the MRN complex formed distinct nuclear foci that colocalized with phosphorylated H2AX after inhibition of DNA synthesis by the nucleoside analogues, gemcitabine, ara-C, and troxacitabine. Since double-strand breaks were undetectable, this response was likely due to stalling of replication forks. A similar DNA damage response was observed in human lymphocytes after exposure to ionizing radiation and in acute myelogenous leukemia blasts during therapy with the ara-C prodrug, CP-4055. Deficiencies in ATM, Mre11, and Rad50 led to a two- to five-fold increase in gemcitabine sensitivity, suggesting that these molecules contribute to drug resistance. Based on these results, a model is proposed for the sensing of nucleoside analogue-induced stalled replication forks that includes H2AX, ATM, and the Mre11-Rad50-Nbs1 complex.

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Recommended Citation

Ewald, Brett J, "The molecular mechanisms of sensing nucleoside analogue-induced DNA damage" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3296168.