ARTICLE ABSTRACTInhibition of ribonucleotide reductase (RNR), the rate-limiting enzyme in the synthesis of deoxyribonucleotides, causes DNA replication stress and activates the ataxia telangiectasia and rad3-related protein (ATR)-checkpoint kinase 1 (CHK1) pathway. Notably, a number of different cancers, including Ewing sarcoma tumors, are sensitive to the combination of RNR and ATR-CHK1 inhibitors. However, multiple, overlapping mechanisms are reported to underlie the toxicity of ATR-CHK1 inhibitors, both as single agents and in combination with RNR inhibitors, toward cancer cells. Here, we identified a feedback loop in Ewing sarcoma cells in which inhibition of the ATR–CHK1 pathway depletes RRM2, the small subunit of RNR, and exacerbates the DNA replication stress and DNA damage caused by RNR inhibitors. Mechanistically, we identified that the inhibition of ATR-CHK1 activates CDK2, which targets RRM2 for degradation via the proteasome. Similarly, activation of CDK2 by inhibition or knockdown of the WEE1 kinase also depletes RRM2 and causes DNA damage and apoptosis. Moreover, we show that the concurrent inhibition of ATR and WEE1 has a synergistic effect in Ewing sarcoma cells. Overall, our results provide novel insight into the response to DNA replication stress, as well as a rationale for targeting the ATR, CHK1, and WEE1 pathways, in Ewing sarcoma tumors.
Targeting the ATR, CHK1, and WEE1 kinases in Ewing sarcoma cells activates CDK2 and increases DNA replication stress by promoting the proteasome-mediated degradation of RRM2.