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DNA Repair (Amst). 2006 Sep 8;5(9-10):1234-45. Epub 2006 Jun 21.

Roles of nonhomologous DNA end joining, V(D)J recombination, and class switch recombination in chromosomal translocations.

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USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Ctr., Rm. 5428, University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine 1441 Eastlake Ave, MC 9176 Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA.


When a single double-strand break arises in the genome, nonhomologous DNA end joining (NHEJ) is a major pathway for its repair. When double-strand breaks arise at two nonhomologous sites in the genome, NHEJ also appears to be a major pathway by which the translocated ends are joined. The mechanism of NHEJ is briefly summarized, and alternative enzymes are also discussed. V(D)J recombination and class switch recombination are specialized processes designed to create double-strand DNA breaks at specific locations in the genomes of lymphoid cells. Sporadic Burkitt's lymphoma and myelomas can arise due to translocation of the c-myc gene into the Ig heavy chain locus during class switch recombination. In other lymphoid neoplasms, the RAG complex can create double-strand breaks that result in a translocation. Such RAG-generated breaks occur at very specific nucleotides that are directly adjacent to sequences that resemble canonical heptamer/nonamer sequences characteristic of normal V(D)J recombination. This occurs in some T cell leukemias and lymphomas. The RAG complex also appears capable of recognizing regions for their altered DNA structure rather than their primary sequence, and this may account for the action by RAGs at some chromosomal translocation sites, such as at the bcl-2 major breakpoint region in the follicular lymphomas that arise in B lymphocytes.

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