Send to

Choose Destination
Mutat Res. 2011 Jun 3;711(1-2):61-72. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2011.02.005. Epub 2011 Feb 15.

Induction and repair of DNA double strand breaks: the increasing spectrum of non-homologous end joining pathways.

Author information

Institute of Medical Radiation Biology, University of Duisburg-Essen Medical School, Hufelandstr. 55, 45122 Essen, Germany.


A defining characteristic of damage induced in the DNA by ionizing radiation (IR) is its clustered character that leads to the formation of complex lesions challenging the cellular repair mechanisms. The most widely investigated such complex lesion is the DNA double strand break (DSB). DSBs undermine chromatin stability and challenge the repair machinery because an intact template strand is lacking to assist restoration of integrity and sequence in the DNA molecule. Therefore, cells have evolved a sophisticated machinery to detect DSBs and coordinate a response on the basis of inputs from various sources. A central function of cellular responses to DSBs is the coordination of DSB repair. Two conceptually different mechanisms can in principle remove DSBs from the genome of cells of higher eukaryotes. Homologous recombination repair (HRR) uses as template a homologous DNA molecule and is therefore error-free; it functions preferentially in the S and G2 phases. Non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), on the other hand, simply restores DNA integrity by joining the two ends, is error prone as sequence is only fortuitously preserved and active throughout the cell cycle. The basis of DSB repair pathway choice remains unknown, but cells of higher eukaryotes appear programmed to utilize preferentially NHEJ. Recent work suggests that when the canonical DNA-PK dependent pathway of NHEJ (D-NHEJ), becomes compromised an alternative NHEJ pathway and not HRR substitutes in a quasi-backup function (B-NHEJ). Here, we outline aspects of DSB induction by IR and review the mechanisms of their processing in cells of higher eukaryotes. We place particular emphasis on backup pathways of NHEJ and summarize their increasing significance in various cellular processes, as well as their potential contribution to carcinogenesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center