Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC), the most common cancer type, causes high morbidity and mortality. Patients who develop drug resistance to oxaliplatin-based regimens have short overall survival. Thus, identifying molecules involved in the development of oxaliplatin resistance is critical for designing therapeutic strategies. Methods: A proteomic screen was performed to reveal altered protein kinase phosphorylation in oxaliplatin-resistant (OR) CRC tumour spheroids. The function of CHK2 was characterised using several biochemical techniques and evident using in vitro cell and in vivo tumour models. Results: We revealed that the level of phospho-CHK2(Thr68) was elevated in OR CRC cells and in ~30% of tumour samples from patients with OR CRC. We demonstrated that oxaliplatin activated several phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-related kinases (PIKKs) and CHK2 downstream effectors and enhanced CHK2/PARP1 interaction to facilitate DNA repair. A phosphorylation mimicking CHK2 mutant, CHK2T68D, but not a kinase-dead CHK2 mutant, CHK2D347A, promoted DNA repair, the CHK2/PARP1 interaction, and cell growth in the presence of oxaliplatin. Finally, we showed that a CHK2 inhibitor, BML-277, reduced protein poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation (PARylation), FANCD2 monoubiquitination, homologous recombination and OR CRC cell growth in vitro and in vivo. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that CHK2 activity is critical for modulating oxaliplatin response and that CHK2 is a potential therapeutic target for OR CRC.
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