Ku regulates the non-homologous end joining pathway choice of DNA double-strand break repair in human somatic cells

Farjana Fattaha, Eu Han Lee, Natalie Weisenselb, Yongbao Wang, Natalie Lichter, Eric A Hendrickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

165 Scopus citations

Abstract

The repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) is critical for the maintenance of genomic integrity and viability for all organisms. Mammals have evolved at least two genetically discrete ways to mediate DNA DSB repair: homologous recombination (HR) and non-homologous end joining (NHEJ). In mammalian cells, most DSBs are preferentially repaired by NHEJ. Recent work has demonstrated that NHEJ consists of at least two sub-pathways - the main Ku heterodimerdependent or "classic" NHEJ (C-NHEJ) pathway and an "alternative" NHEJ (A-NHEJ) pathway, which usually generates microhomology-mediated signatures at repair junctions. In our study, recombinant adeno-associated virus knockout vectors were utilized to construct a series of isogenic human somatic cell lines deficient in the core C-NHEJ factors (Ku, DNA-PKcs, XLF, and LIGIV), and the resulting cell lines were characterized for their ability to carry out DNA DSB repair. The absence of DNA-PKcs, XLF, or LIGIV resulted in cell lines that were profoundly impaired in DNA DSB repair activity. Unexpectedly, Ku86-null cells showed wild-type levels of DNA DSB repair activity that was dominated by microhomology joining events indicative of A-NHEJ. Importantly, A-NHEJ DNA DSB repair activity could also be efficiently de-repressed in LIGIV-null and DNA-PKcs-null cells by subsequently reducing the level of Ku70. These studies demonstrate that in human cells C-NHEJ is the major DNA DSB repair pathway and they show that Ku is the critical C-NHEJ factor that regulates DNA NHEJ DSB pathway choice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1000855
JournalPLoS genetics
Volume6
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2010

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