The serine/threonine protein kinase LKB1 functions as a tumour suppressor, and mutations in this enzyme lead to the inherited Peutz—Jeghers cancer syndrome. We previously found that LKB1 was phosphorylated at Thr-366 in vivo, a residue conserved in mammalian, Xenopus and Drosophila LKB1, located on a C-terminal non-catalytic moiety of the enzyme. Mutation of Thr-366 to Ala or Asp partially inhibited the ability of LKB1 to suppress growth of G361 melanoma cells, but did not affect LKB1 activity in vitro or LKB1 localization in vivo. As a first step in exploring the role of this phosphorylation further, we have generated a phosphospecific antibody specifically recognizing LKB1 phosphorylated at Thr-366 and demonstrate that exposure of cells to ionizing radiation (IR) induced a marked phosphorylation of LKB1 at Thr-366 in the nucleus. Thr-366 lies in an optimal phosphorylation motif for the phosphoinositide 3-kinase-like kinases DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK), ataxia telangiectasia mutated kinase (ATM) and ataxia telangiectasia-related kinase (ATR), which function as sensors for DNA damage in cells and mediate cellular responses to DNA damage. We demonstrate that both DNA-PK and ATM efficiently phosphorylate LKB1 at Thr-366 in vitro and provide evidence that ATM mediates this phosphorylation in vivo. This is based on the finding that LKB1 is not phosphorylated in a cell line lacking ATM in response to IR, and that agents which induce cellular responses via ATR in preference to ATM poorly induce phosphorylation of LKB1 at Thr-366. These observations provide the first link between ATM and LKB1 and suggest that ATM could regulate LKB1.

Abbreviations used: ATM, ataxia telangiectasia mutated kinase; ATR, ataxia telangiectasia-related kinase; DNA-PK, DNA-dependent protein kinase; DTT, dithiothreitol; EGF, epidermal growth factor; GST, glutathione S-transferase; IGF1, insulin-like growth factor 1; IR, ionizing radiation; KD-LKB1, kinase-dead LKB1; LPA, lipophosphatidic acid; MALDI-TOF, matrix-assisted laser-desorption ionization—time-of-flight; MMS, methyl methanesulphonate; PI 3-kinase, phosphoinositide 3-kinase; PJS, Peutz—Jeghers syndrome; PKA, cAMP-dependent protein kinase; PKB, protein kinase B; RSK, p90 ribosomal S6 protein kinase; WT-LKB1, wild-type LKB1; YFP, yellow fluorescent protein.

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Author notes

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Present address: Division of Developmental Genetics, Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Sheffield, Firth Court, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, U.K.