Most anticancer drugs presently used clinically target genomic DNA. The selectivity of these anticancer drugs for tumor tissues is probably due to tumor-specific defects suppressing cell cycle checkpoints and DNA repair, and enhancing apoptotic response in the tumor. We will review the molecular interactions within the ATM-Chk2 pathway implicating the DNA damage sensor kinases (ATM, ATR and DNA-PK), the adaptor BRCT proteins (Nbs1, Brca1, 53BP1, MDC1) and the effector kinases (Chk2, Chk1, Plk3, JNK, p38). The molecular interaction map convention (MIM) will be used for presenting this molecular network (http://discover.nci.nih.gov/mim/). A characteristic of the ATM-Chk2 pathway is its redundancy. First, ATM and Chk2 phosphorylate common substrates including p53, E2F1, BRCA1, and Chk2 itself, which suggests that Chk2 (also known as CHECK2, Cds1 in fission yeast, and Dmchk2 or Dmnk or Loki in the fruit fly) acts as a relay for ATM and/or as a salvage pathway when ATM is inactivated. Secondly, redundancy is apparent for the substrates, which can be phosphorylated/activated at similar residues by Chk2, Chk1, and the polo kinases (Plks). Functionally, Chk2 can activate both apoptosis (via p53, E2F1 and PML) and cell cycle checkpoint (via Cdc25A and Cdc25C, p53, and BRCA1). We will review the short list of published Chk2 inhibitors. We will also propose a novel paradigm for screening interfacial inhibitors of Chk2. Chk2 inhibitors might be used to enhance the tumor selectivity of DNA targeted agents in p53-deficient tumors, and for the treatment of tumors whose growth depends on enhanced Chk2 activity.
cell cycle checkpoints, apoptosis, dna double-strand breaks, dna repair
Building 37, Room 5068,NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892-4255, USA.