Qin, J. and Li, L. Molecular Anatomy of the DNA Damage and Replication Checkpoints. Radiat. Res. 159, 139–148 (2003).
Cell cycle checkpoints are signal transduction pathways that enforce the orderly execution of the cell division cycle and arrest the cell cycle upon the occurrence of undesirable events, such as DNA damage, replication stress, and spindle disruption. The primary function of the cell cycle checkpoint is to ensure that the integrity of chromosomal DNA is maintained. DNA lesions and disrupted replication forks are thought to be recognized by the DNA damage checkpoint and replication checkpoint, respectively. Both checkpoints initiate protein kinase-based signal transduction cascade to activate downstream effectors that elicit cell cycle arrest, DNA repair, or apoptosis that is often dependent on dose and cell type. These actions prevent the conversion of aberrant DNA structures into inheritable mutations and minimize the survival of cells with unrepairable damage. Genetic components of the damage and replication checkpoints have been identified in yeast and humans, and a working model is beginning to emerge. We summarize recent advances in the DNA damage and replication checkpoints and discuss the essential functions of the proteins involved in the checkpoint responses.