ATM-dependent phosphorylation of ATF2 is required for the DNA damage response.
Activating transcription factor 2 (ATF2) is regulated by JNK/p38 in response to stress. Here, we demonstrate that the protein kinase ATM phosphorylates ATF2 on serines 490 and 498 following ionizing radiation (IR). Phosphoantibodies to ATF2(490/8) reveal dose- and time-dependent phosphorylation of ATF2 by ATM that results in its rapid colocalization with gamma-H2AX and MRN components into IR-induced foci (IRIF). Inhibition of ATF2 expression decreased recruitment of Mre11 to IRIF, abrogated S phase checkpoint, reduced activation of ATM, Chk1, and Chk2, and impaired radioresistance. ATF2 requires neither JNK/p38 nor its DNA binding domain for recruitment to IRIF and the S phase checkpoint. Our findings identify a role for ATF2 in the DNA damage response that is uncoupled from its transcriptional activity.