Activation of ATM kinase by ROS generated during ionophore-induced mitophagy in human T and B cell malignancies

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Ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM), a critical DNA damage sensor, also possesses non-nuclear functions owing to its presence in extra-nuclear compartments, including peroxisomes, lysosomes, and mitochondria. ATM is frequently altered in several human cancers. Recently, we and others have shown that loss of ATM is associated with defective mitochondrial autophagy (mitophagy) in ataxia–telangiectasia (A–T) fibroblasts and B-cell lymphomas. Further, we reported that ATM protein but not ATM kinase activity is required for mitophagy. However, the mechanism of ATM kinase activation during ionophore-induced mitophagy is unknown. In the work reported here, using several ionophores in A–T and multiple T-cell and B-cell lymphoma cell lines, we show that ionophore-induced mitophagy triggers oxidative stress–induced ATMSer1981 phosphorylation through ROS activation, which is different from neocarzinostatin-induced activation of ATMSer1981, Smc1Ser966, and Kap1Ser824. We used A–T cells overexpressed with WT or S1981A (auto-phosphorylation dead) ATM plasmids and show that ATM is activated by ROS-induced oxidative stress emanating from ionophore-induced mitochondrial damage and mitophagy. The antioxidants N-acetylcysteine and glutathione significantly inhibited ROS production and ATMSer1981 phosphorylation but failed to inhibit mitophagy as determined by retroviral infection with mt-mKeima construct followed by lysosomal dual-excitation ratiometric pH measurements. Our data suggest that while ATM kinase does not participate in mitophagy, it is activated via elevated ROS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-423
Number of pages7
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • ATM kinase
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Mitophagy
  • ROS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

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