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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Feb 16;96(4):1303-8.

A role for FEN-1 in nonhomologous DNA end joining: the order of strand annealing and nucleolytic processing events.

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Department of Pathology, Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Room 5428, University of Southern California, 1441 Eastlake Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA.


Eukaryotic repair of double-strand DNA breaks can occur either by homologous recombination or by nonhomologous DNA end joining (NHEJ). NHEJ relies on Ku70/86, XRCC4, DNA ligase IV, and DNA-dependent protein kinase. NHEJ involves a synapsis step in which the two ends are maintained in proximity, processing steps in which nucleases and polymerases act on the ends, an alignment step in which a few nucleotides of terminal homology guide the ends into preferred alignments, and a ligation step. Some of the steps, such as ligation, rely on a single enzymatic component. However, the processing steps begin and end with a wide array of alternative substrates and products, respectively, and likely involve multiple nucleases and polymerases. Given the alternative pathways that can be catalyzed by the remaining nucleases and polymerases, no one of these processing enzymes is likely to be essential. The only requirement for the processing enzymes, as a collective, is to generate a ligatable configuration, namely a ligatable nick on each strand. Here, we have tested the two major known 5'-specific nucleases of Saccharomyces cerevisiae for involvement in NHEJ. Whereas EXO1 does not appear to be involved to any detectable level, deleting RAD27 (FEN-1 of yeast) leads to a 4.4-fold reduction specifically of those NHEJ events predicted to proceed by means of 5' flap intermediates. Because Rad27/FEN-1 acts specifically at 5' flap structures, these results suggest that the NHEJ alignment step precedes nucleolytic processing steps in a significant fraction of NHEJ events.

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