The intermediate filament synemin has been previously identified as novel regulator of cancer cell therapy resistance and DNA double strand break (DSB) repair. c-Abl tyrosine kinase is involved in both of these processes. Using PamGene technology, we performed a broad-spectrum kinase activity profiling in three-dimensionally, extracellular matrix grown head and neck cancer cell cultures. Upon synemin silencing, we identified 86 deactivated tyrosine kinases, including c-Abl, in irradiated HNSCC cells. Upon irradiation and synemin inhibition, c-Abl hyperphosphorylation on tyrosine (Y) 412 and threonine (T) 735 was significantly reduced, prompting us to hypothesize that c-Abl tyrosine kinase is an important signaling component of the synemin-mediated radioresistance pathway. Simultaneous targeting of synemin and c-Abl resulted in similar radiosensitization and DSB repair compared with single synemin depletion, suggesting synemin as an upstream regulator of c-Abl. Immunoprecipitation assays revealed a protein complex formation between synemin and c-Abl pre- and post-irradiation. Upon pharmacological inhibition of ATM, synemin/c-Abl protein-protein interactions were disrupted implying synemin function to depend on ATM kinase activity. Moreover, deletion of the SH2 domain of c-Abl demonstrated a decrease in interaction, indicating the dependency of the protein-protein interaction on this domain. Mechanistically, radiosensitization upon synemin knockdown seems to be associated with an impairment of DNA repair via regulation of non-homologous end joining independent of c-Abl function. Our data generated in more physiological 3D cancer cell culture models suggest c-Abl as further key determinant of radioresistance downstream of synemin.
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