Ribosome synthesis and MAPK activity modulate ionizing radiation-induced germ cell apoptosis in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Eberhard R., Stergiou L., Hofmann ER., Hofmann J., Haenni S., Teo Y., Furger A., Hengartner MO.
Synthesis of ribosomal RNA by RNA polymerase I (RNA pol I) is an elemental biological process and is key for cellular homeostasis. In a forward genetic screen in C. elegans designed to identify DNA damage-response factors, we isolated a point mutation of RNA pol I, rpoa-2(op259), that leads to altered rRNA synthesis and a concomitant resistance to ionizing radiation (IR)-induced germ cell apoptosis. This weak apoptotic IR response could be phenocopied when interfering with other factors of ribosome synthesis. Surprisingly, despite their resistance to DNA damage, rpoa-2(op259) mutants present a normal CEP-1/p53 response to IR and increased basal CEP-1 activity under normal growth conditions. In parallel, rpoa-2(op259) leads to reduced Ras/MAPK pathway activity, which is required for germ cell progression and physiological germ cell death. Ras/MAPK gain-of-function conditions could rescue the IR response defect in rpoa-2(op259), pointing to a function for Ras/MAPK in modulating DNA damage-induced apoptosis downstream of CEP-1. Our data demonstrate that a single point mutation in an RNA pol I subunit can interfere with multiple key signalling pathways. Ribosome synthesis and growth-factor signalling are perturbed in many cancer cells; such an interplay between basic cellular processes and signalling might be critical for how tumours evolve or respond to treatment.