The ATM protein, encoded by the gene responsible for the human genetic disorder ataxia telangiectasia (A-T), regulates several cellular responses to DNA breaks. ATM shares a phosphoinositide 3-kinase-related domain with several proteins, some of them protein kinases. A worthmannin-sensitive protein kinase activity was associated with endogenous or recombinant ATM and was abolished by structural ATM mutations. In vitro substrates included the translation repressor PHAS-1 and the p53 protein. ATM phosphorylated p53 in vitro on a single residue, serine-15, which is phosphorylated in vivo in response to DNA damage. This activity was markedly enhanced within minutes after treatment of cells with a radiomimetic drug; the total amount of ATM remained unchanged. Various damage-induced responses may be activated by enhancement of the protein kinase activity of ATM.