Eukaryotic cells are equipped with machinery to monitor and repair damaged DNA. Herpes simplex virus (HSV) DNA replication occurs at discrete sites in nuclei, the replication compartment, where viral replication proteins cluster and synthesize a large amount of viral DNA. In the present study, HSV infection was found to elicit a cellular DNA damage response, with activation of the ataxia-telangiectasia-mutated (ATM) signal transduction pathway, as observed by autophosphorylation of ATM and phosphorylation of multiple downstream targets including Nbs1, Chk2, and p53, while infection with a UV-inactivated virus or with a replication-defective virus did not. Activated ATM and the DNA damage sensor MRN complex composed of Mre11, Rad50, and Nbs1 were recruited and retained at sites of viral DNA replication, probably recognizing newly synthesized viral DNAs as abnormal DNA structures. These events were not observed in ATM-deficient cells, indicating ATM dependence. In Nbs1-deficient cells, HSV infection induced an ATM DNA damage response that was delayed, suggesting a functional MRN complex requirement for efficient ATM activation. However, ATM silencing had no effect on viral replication in 293T cells. Our data open up an interesting question of how the virus is able to complete its replication, although host cells activate ATM checkpoint signaling in response to the HSV infection.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes