In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the DNA damage response (DDR) is activated by the spatio-temporal colocalization of Mec1-Ddc2 kinase and the 9-1-1 clamp. In the absence of direct means to monitor Mec1 kinase activation in vivo, activation of the checkpoint kinase Rad53 has been taken as a proxy for DDR activation. Here, we identify serine 378 of the Rad55 recombination protein as a direct target site of Mec1. Rad55-S378 phosphorylation leads to an electrophoretic mobility shift of the protein and acts as a sentinel for Mec1 activation in vivo. A single double-stranded break (DSB) in G1-arrested cells causes phosphorylation of Rad55-S378, indicating activation of Mec1 kinase. However, Rad53 kinase is not detectably activated under these conditions. This response required Mec1-Ddc2 and loading of the 9-1-1 clamp by Rad24-RFC, but not Rad9 or Mrc1. In addition to Rad55-S378, two additional direct Mec1 kinase targets are phosphorylated, the middle subunit of the ssDNA-binding protein RPA, RPA2 and histone H2A (H2AX). These data suggest the existence of a truncated signaling pathway in response to a single DSB in G1-arrested cells that activates Mec1 without eliciting a full DDR involving the entire signaling pathway including the effector kinases.
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