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Curr Biol. 1999 Jul 1;9(13):699-702.

Identification of a defect in DNA ligase IV in a radiosensitive leukaemia patient.

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MRC Cell Mutation Unit, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9RR, UK.


The major mechanism for the repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in mammalian cells is non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ), a process that involves the DNA-dependent protein kinase [1] [2], XRCC4 and DNA ligase IV [3] [4] [5] [6]. Rodent cells and mice defective in these components are radiation-sensitive and defective in V(D)J-recombination, showing that NHEJ also functions to rejoin DSBs introduced during lymphocyte development [7] [8]. 180BR is a radiosensitive cell line defective in DSB repair, which was derived from a leukaemia patient who was highly sensitive to radiotherapy [9] [10] [11]. We have identified a mutation within a highly conserved motif encompassing the active site in DNA ligase IV from 180BR cells. The mutated protein is severely compromised in its ability to form a stable enzyme-adenylate complex, although residual activity can be detected at high ATP concentrations. Our results characterize the first patient with a defect in an NHEJ component and suggest that a significant defect in NHEJ that leads to pronounced radiosensitivity is compatible with normal human viability and does not cause any major immune dysfunction. The defect, however, may confer a predisposition to leukaemia.

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