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DNA Repair (Amst). 2012 Jan 2;11(1):74-81. doi: 10.1016/j.dnarep.2011.10.023. Epub 2011 Nov 15.

Electron microscopy visualization of DNA-protein complexes formed by Ku and DNA ligase IV.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-3220, United States.


The repair of DNA double-stranded breaks (DSBs) is essential for cell viability and genome stability. Aberrant repair of DSBs has been linked with cancer predisposition and aging. During the repair of DSBs by non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), DNA ends are brought together, processed and then joined. In eukaryotes, this repair pathway is initiated by the binding of the ring-shaped Ku heterodimer and completed by DNA ligase IV. The DNA ligase IV complex, DNA ligase IV/XRRC4 in humans and Dnl4/Lif1 in yeast, is recruited to DNA ends in vitro and in vivo by an interaction with Ku and, in yeast, Dnl4/Lif1 stabilizes the binding of yKu to in vivo DSBs. Here we have analyzed the interactions of these functionally conserved eukaryotic NHEJ factors with DNA by electron microscopy. As expected, the ring-shaped Ku complex bound stably and specifically to DNA ends at physiological salt concentrations. At a ratio of 1 Ku molecule per DNA end, the majority of DNA ends were occupied by a single Ku complex with no significant formation of linear DNA multimers or circular loops. Both Dnl4/Lif1 and DNA ligase IV/XRCC4 formed complexes with Ku-bound DNA ends, resulting in intra- and intermolecular DNA end bridging, even with non-ligatable DNA ends. Together, these studies, which provide the first visualization of the conserved complex formed by Ku and DNA ligase IV at juxtaposed DNA ends by electron microscopy, suggest that the DNA ligase IV complex mediates end-bridging by engaging two Ku-bound DNA ends.

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