A Novel Mechanism of Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Mediated Regulation of Chromatin Remodeling in Hypoxic Conditions

Maria Likhatcheva, Roben G Gieling, James A L Brown, Constantinos Demonacos, Kaye J Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effects of genotoxic stress can be mediated by activation of the Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated (ATM) kinase, under both DNA damage-dependent (including ionizing radiation), and independent (including hypoxic stress) conditions. ATM activation is complex, and primarily mediated by the lysine acetyltransferase Tip60. Epigenetic changes can regulate this Tip60-dependent activation of ATM, requiring the interaction of Tip60 with tri-methylated histone 3 lysine 9 (H3K9me3). Under hypoxic stress, the role of Tip60 in DNA damage-independent ATM activation is unknown. However, epigenetic changes dependent on the methyltransferase Suv39H1, which generates H3K9me3, have been implicated. Our results demonstrate severe hypoxic stress (0.1% oxygen) caused ATM auto-phosphorylation and activation (pS1981), H3K9me3, and elevated both Suv39H1 and Tip60 protein levels in FTC133 and HCT116 cell lines. Exploring the mechanism of ATM activation under these hypoxic conditions, siRNA-mediated Suv39H1 depletion prevented H3K9me3 induction, and Tip60 inhibition (by TH1834) blocked ATM auto-phosphorylation. While MDM2 (Mouse double minute 2) can target Suv39H1 for degradation, it can be blocked by sirtuin-1 (Sirt1). Under severe hypoxia MDM2 protein levels were unchanged, and Sirt1 levels depleted. SiRNA-mediated depletion of MDM2 revealed MDM2 dependent regulation of Suv39H1 protein stability under these conditions. We describe a novel molecular circuit regulating the heterochromatic state (H3K9me3 positive) under severe hypoxic conditions, showing that severe hypoxia-induced ATM activation maintains H3K9me3 levels by downregulating MDM2 and preventing MDM2-mediated degradation of Suv39H1. This novel mechanism is a potential anti-cancer therapeutic opportunity, which if exploited could target the hypoxic tumor cells known to drive both tumor progression and treatment resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number720194
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in cell and developmental biology
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2021


  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated (ATM)
  • hypoxia
  • SUV39H1
  • Tip60
  • MDM2


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