Patients suffering from glioblastoma have a dismal prognosis, indicating the need for new therapeutic targets. Here we provide evidence that the DNA damage kinase HIPK2 and its negative regulatory E3-ubiquitin ligase SIAH1 are critical factors controlling temozolomide-induced cell death. We show that HIPK2 downregulation (HIPK2kd) significantly reduces the level of apoptosis. This was not the case in glioblastoma cells expressing the repair protein MGMT, suggesting that the primary DNA lesion responsible for triggering HIPK2-mediated apoptosis is O6 -methylguanine. Upon temozolomide treatment, p53 becomes phosphorylated whereby HIPK2kd had impact exclusively on ser46, but not ser15. Searching for the transcriptional target of p-p53ser46, we identified the death receptor FAS (CD95, APO-1) being involved. Thus, the expression of FAS was attenuated following HIPK2kd, supporting the conclusion that HIPK2 regulates temozolomide-induced apoptosis via p-p53ser46-driven FAS expression. This was substantiated in chromatin-immunoprecipitation experiments, in which p-p53ser46 binding to the Fas promotor was regulated by HIPK2. Other pro-apoptotic proteins such as PUMA, NOXA, BAX, and PTEN were not affected in HIPK2kd, and also double-strand breaks following temozolomide remained unaffected. We further show that downregulation of the HIPK2 inactivator SIAH1 significantly ameliorates temozolomide-induced apoptosis, suggesting that the ATM/ATR target SIAH1 together with HIPK2 plays a proapoptotic role in glioma cells exhibiting p53wt status. A database analysis revealed that SIAH1, but not SIAH2, is significantly overexpressed in glioblastomas. IMPLICATIONS: The identification of a novel apoptotic pathway triggered by the temozolomide-induced DNA damage O6 -methylguanine supports the role of p53 in the decision between survival and death and suggests SIAH1 and HIPK2 as new therapeutic targets.
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