The ATR-mediated checkpoint is not only critical for responding to genotoxic stress but also essential for cell proliferation. The RFC-related checkpoint protein Rad17, a phosphorylation substrate of ATR, is critical for ATR-mediated checkpoint signaling and cell survival. Here, we show that phosphorylation of Rad17 by ATR is important for genomic stability and restraint of S phase but is not essential for cell survival. The phosphomutant Rad17AA exhibits distinct defects in hydroxyurea- (HU) and ultraviolet- (UV) induced Chk1 activation, indicating that separate Rad17 functions are required differently in response to different types of replication interference. Although cells expressing Rad17AA can initiate Chk1 phosphorylation after HU treatment, they fail to sustain Chk1 phosphorylation after withdrawal of HU and are profoundly sensitive to HU. Importantly, we found that phosphorylated Rad17 interacts with Claspin and regulates its phosphorylation. These findings reveal a phosphorylation-dependent function of Rad17 in an ATR-Rad17-Claspin-Chk1-signaling cascade that responds to specific replication stress.
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