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Radiat Res. 2009 Apr;171(4):454-63. doi: 10.1667/RR1329.1.

Ionizing radiation induces microhomology-mediated end joining in trans in yeast and mammalian cells.

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  • 1David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Department of Pathology, Los Angeles, California, USA.


DNA double-strand breaks repaired through nonhomologous end joining require no extended sequence homology as a template for the repair. A subset of end-joining events, termed microhomology-mediated end joining, occur between a few base pairs of homology, and such pathways have been implicated in different human cancers and genetic diseases. Here we investigated the effect of exposure of yeast and mammalian cells to ionizing radiation on the frequency and mechanism of rejoining of transfected unirradiated linear plasmid DNA. Cells were exposed to gamma radiation prior to plasmid transfection; subsequently the rejoined plasmids were recovered and the junction sequences were analyzed. In irradiated yeast cells, 68% of recovered plasmids contained microhomologies, compared to only 30% from unirradiated cells. Among them 57% of events used>or=4 bp of microhomology compared to only 11% from unirradiated cells. In irradiated mammalian cells, 54% of plasmids used>or=4 bp of microhomology compared to none from unirradiated cells. We conclude that exposure of yeast and mammalian cells to radiation prior to plasmid transfection enhances the frequency of microhomology-mediated end-joining events in trans. If such events occur within genomic locations, they may be involved in the generation of large deletions and other chromosomal aberrations that occur in cancer cells.

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