Functional analysis of a conserved site mutation in the DNA end processing enzyme PNKP leading to ataxia with oculomotor apraxia type 4 in humans

Azharul Islam, Anirban Chakraborty, Stefano Gambardella, Rosa Campopiano, Altaf H. Sarker, Istvan Boldogh, Tapas Hazra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Polynucleotide kinase 3′-phosphatase (PNKP), an essential DNA end-processing enzyme in mammals with 3′-phosphatase and 5′-kinase activities, plays a pivotal role in multiple DNA repair pathways. Its functional deficiency has been etiologically linked to various neurological disorders. Recent reports have shown that mutation at a conserved glutamine (Gln) in PNKP leads to late-onset ataxia with oculomotor apraxia type 4 (AOA4) in humans and embryonic lethality in pigs. However, the molecular mechanism underlying such phenotypes remains elusive. Here, we report that the enzymatic activities of the mutant versus WT PNKP are comparable; however, cells expressing mutant PNKP and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of AOA4 patients showed a significant amount of DNA double-strand break accumulation and consequent activation of the DNA damage response. Further investigation revealed that the nuclear localization of mutant PNKP is severely abrogated, and the mutant proteins remain primarily in the cytoplasm. Western blot analysis of AOA4 patient-derived PBMCs also revealed the presence of mutated PNKP predominantly in the cytoplasm. To understand the molecular determinants, we identified that mutation at a conserved Gln residue impedes the interaction of PNKP with importin alpha but not with importin beta, two highly conserved proteins that mediate the import of proteins from the cytoplasm into the nucleus. Collectively, our data suggest that the absence of PNKP in the nucleus leads to constant activation of the DNA damage response due to persistent accumulation of double-strand breaks in the mutant cells, triggering death of vulnerable brain cells—a potential cause of neurodegeneration in AOA4 patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104714
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Volume299
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2023

Keywords

  • AOA4
  • DNA repair
  • PNKP
  • neurodegeneration
  • nuclear transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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