Claspin is a newly identified protein that regulates Chk1 activation in Xenopus. In the present study we investigated the role of human Claspin in the DNA damage/replication checkpoint in mammalian cells. We observed that human Claspin is a cell cycle regulated protein that peaks at S/G2 phase. Claspin localizes in the nuclei, but it only associates with Chk1 following replication stress or other types of DNA damage. In addition, Claspin is phosphorylated in response to replication stress, and this phosphorylation appears to be required for its association with Chk1. Moreover, Claspin interacts with the checkpoint proteins ATR and Rad9. Given that both the ATR and Rad9-Rad1-Hus1 complexes are involved in Chk1 activation, it is possible that Claspin works as an adaptor molecule bringing these molecules together. Using small interfering RNA technology, we have shown that down-regulation of Claspin expression inhibits Chk1 activation in response to replication stress. More importantly, down-regulation of Claspin augments the premature chromatin condensation induced by hydroxyurea, inhibits the UV-induced reduction of DNA synthesis, and decreases cell survival. Taken together, these data imply a potentially critical role for Claspin in replication checkpoint control in mammalian cells.
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