DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) is utilized in both DNA double-strand break repair (DSBR) and V(D)J recombination, but the mechanism by which this multiprotein complex participates in these processes is unknown. To evaluate the importance of DNA-PK-mediated protein phosphorylation in DSBR and V(D)J recombination, we assessed the effects of the phosphatidyl inositol 3-kinase inhibitor wortmannin on the repair of ionizing radiation-induced DNA double-strand breaks and V(D)J recombination in the V(D)J recombinase inducible B cell line HDR37. Wortmannin radiosensitized HDR37, but had no affect on V(D)J recombination despite a marked reduction in DNA-PK activity. On the other hand, studies with mammalian expression vectors for wild-type human DNA-PK catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) and a kinase domain mutant demonstrated that only the kinase active form of DNA-PKcs can reconstitute DSBR and V(D)J recombination in a DNA-PKcs-deficient cell line (Sf19), implying that DNA-PKcs kinase activity is essential for both DSBR and V(D)J recombination. These apparently contradictory results were reconciled by analyses of cell lines varying in their expression of recombinant wild-type human DNA-PKcs. These studies establish that minimal DNA-PKcs protein levels are sufficient to support V(D)J recombination, but insufficient to confer resistance to ionizing radiation.