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Ionizing radiation (IR) is commonly used in cancer therapy and is a main source of DNA double-strand-breaks (DSBs), one of the most toxic forms of DNA damage. We have used Caenorhabditis elegans as an invertebrate model to identify novel factors required for repair of DNA damage inflicted by IR. We have performed an unbiased genetic screen, finding that smg-1 mutations confer strong hypersensitivity to IR. SMG-1 is a phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI3K) kinase involved in mediating nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) of transcripts containing premature stop codons and related to the ATM and ATR kinases which are at the apex of DNA damage signalling pathways. Hypersensitivity to IR also occurs when other genes mediating nonsense-mediated mRNA decay are mutated. The hypersensitivity to bleomycin, a drug known to induce DSBs, further supports that NMD pathway mutants are defective in DSB repair. Hypersensitivity was not observed upon treatment with alkylating agents, or UV irradiation. We show that SMG-1 mainly acts in mitotically dividing germ cells, and during late embryonic and larval development. Based on epistasis experiments, SMG-1 does not appear to act in any of the three major pathways known to mend DNA double strand breaks, namely homologous recombination (HR), non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) and microhomology mediated end-joining (MMEJ). We speculate that SMG-1 kinase activity could be activated following DNA damage to phosphorylate specific DNA repair proteins and/or that NMD inactivation may lead to aberrant mRNAs leading to synthesis of malfunctioning DNA repair proteins.
- Ionizing radiation
- Double-strand-break repair
- Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay
- Transcription-Replication interface