Structural maintenance of chromosomes (SMC) proteins (SMC1, SMC3) are evolutionarily conserved chromosomal proteins that are components of the cohesin complex, necessary for sister chromatid cohesion. These proteins may also function in DNA repair. Here we report that SMC1 is a component of the DNA damage response network that functions as an effector in the ATM/NBS1-dependent S-phase checkpoint pathway. SMC1 associates with BRCA1 and is phosphorylated in response to IR in an ATM- and NBS1-dependent manner. Using mass spectrometry, we established that ATM phosphorylates S957 and S966 of SMC1 in vivo. Phosphorylation of S957 and/or S966 of SMC1 is required for activation of the S-phase checkpoint in response to IR. We also discovered that the phosphorylation of NBS1 by ATM is required for the phosphorylation of SMC1, establishing the role of NBS1 as an adaptor in the ATM/NBS1/SMC1 pathway. The ATM/CHK2/CDC25A pathway is also involved in the S-phase checkpoint activation, but this pathway is intact in NBS cells. Our results indicate that the ATM/NBS1/SMC1 pathway is a separate branch of the S-phase checkpoint pathway, distinct from the ATM/CHK2/CDC25A branch. Therefore, this work establishes the ATM/NBS1/SMC1 branch, and provides a molecular basis for the S-phase checkpoint defect in NBS cells.
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