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Epigenomics. 2009 Dec;1(2):371-85. doi: 10.2217/epi.09.22.

Chromatin dynamics during repair of chromosomal DNA double-strand breaks.

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Program in Molecular Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 373 Plantation Street, Worcester, MA 01605, USA.


The integrity of a eukaryotic genome is often challenged by DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). Even a single, unrepaired DSB can be a lethal event, or such unrepaired damage can result in chromosomal instability and loss of genetic information. Furthermore, defects in the pathways that respond to and repair DSBs can lead to the onset of several human pathologic disorders with pleiotropic clinical features, including age-related diseases and cancer. For decades, studies have focused on elucidating the enzymatic mechanisms involved in recognizing, signaling and repairing DSBs within eukaryotic cells. The majority of biochemical and genetic studies have used simple, DNA substrates, whereas only recently efforts have been geared towards understanding how the repair machinery deals with DSBs within chromatin fibers, the nucleoprotein complex that packages DNA within the eukaryotic nucleus. The aim of this review is to discuss our recent understanding of the relationship between chromatin structure and the repair of DSBs by homologous recombination. In particular, we discuss recent studies implicating specialized roles for several, distinct ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling enzymes in facilitating multiple steps within the homologous recombination process.


DNA repair; INO80; RSC; SWI/SNF; SWR1; chromatin remodeling; homologous recombination

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