Heat inactivation of Ku autoantigen: Possible role in hyperthermic radiosentization

Paul Burgman, Honghai Ouyang, Scott Peterson, David J. Chen, Gloria C. Li

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52 Scopus citations


Heat shock prior, during, or immediately after ionizing radiation synergistically increases cell killing, a phenomenon termed hyperthermic radiosensitization. Recently, we have shown a constitutive DNA-binding factor in rodent cells that is inactivated by heat shock to be identical to Ku autoantigen. Ku, consisting of an M(r) 70,000 (Ku70) and an M(r) 86,000 (Ku80) subunit, is a heterodimeric nuclear protein and is the DNA-binding regulatory component of the mammalian DNA-dependent protein kinase DNA-PK. Recent genetic and biochemical studies indicate the involvement of Ku and DNA-PK in DNA double-strand break repair and V(D)J recombination. On the basis of these findings, we propose that heat-induced loss of the DNA- binding activity of Ku may lead to hyperthermic radiosensitization. To test this hypothesis, we examined and compared the DNA-binding activity of Ku, the DNA-PK kinase activity, and hyperthermic radiosensitization in rodent cells immediately after heat shock and during post-heat shock recovery at 37°C. Our results show that the heat-induced loss of Ku-DNA binding activity correlates well with an increased radiosensitivity of the heal-shocked cells, and furthermore, the loss of synergistic interaction between heat and radiation parallels the recovery of the DNA-binding activity of Ku. On the other hand, the heat-induced decrease of DNA-PK activity did not correlate with hyperthermic radiosensitization. Our data, for the first time, provide evidence for a role at Ku protein in modulating the cellular response to combined treatments of heat shock and ionizing radiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2847-2850
Number of pages4
JournalCancer research
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 15 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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