The MRE11 complex (MRE11, RAD50 and NBS1) and the ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) kinase function in the same DNA damage response pathway to effect cell cycle checkpoint activation and apoptosis. The functional interaction between the MRE11 complex and ATM has been proposed to require a conserved C-terminal domain of NBS1 for recruitment of ATM to sites of DNA damage. Human Nijmegen breakage syndrome (NBS) cells and those derived from multiple mouse models of NBS express a hypomorphic NBS1 allele that exhibits impaired ATM activity despite having an intact C-terminal domain. This indicates that the NBS1 C terminus is not sufficient for ATM function. We derived Nbs1(DeltaC/DeltaC) mice in which the C-terminal ATM interaction domain is deleted. Nbs1(DeltaC/DeltaC) cells exhibit intra-S-phase checkpoint defects, but are otherwise indistinguishable from wild-type cells with respect to other checkpoint functions, ionizing radiation sensitivity and chromosome stability. However, multiple tissues of Nbs1(DeltaC/DeltaC) mice showed a severe apoptotic defect, comparable to that of ATM- or CHK2-deficient animals. Analysis of p53 transcriptional targets and ATM substrates showed that, in contrast to the phenotype of Chk2(-/-) mice, NBS1(DeltaC) does not impair the induction of proapoptotic genes. Instead, the defects observed in Nbs1(DeltaC/DeltaC) result from impaired phosphorylation of ATM targets including SMC1 and the proapoptotic factor, BID.
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