Tying up loose ends: nonhomologous end-joining in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Mutat Res. 2000 Jun 30;451(1-2):71-89. doi: 10.1016/s0027-5107(00)00041-5.


The ends of chromosomal DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) can be accurately rejoined by at least two discrete pathways, homologous recombination and nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ). The NHEJ pathway is essential for repair of specific classes of DSB termini in cells of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Endonuclease-induced DSBs retaining complementary single-stranded DNA overhangs are repaired efficiently by end-joining. In contrast, damaged DSB ends (e.g., termini produced by ionizing radiation) are poor substrates for this pathway. NHEJ repair involves the functions of at least 10 genes, including YKU70, YKU80, DNL4, LIF1, SIR2, SIR3, SIR4, RAD50, MRE11, and XRS2. Most or all of these genes are required for efficient recombination-independent recircularization of linearized plasmids and for rejoining of EcoRI endonuclease-induced chromosomal DSBs in vivo. Several NHEJ mutants also display aberrant processing and rejoining of DSBs that are generated by HO endonuclease or formed spontaneously in dicentric plasmids. In addition, all NHEJ genes except DNL4 and LIF1 are required for stabilization of telomeric repeat sequences. Each of the proteins involved in NHEJ appears to bind, directly or through protein associations, with the ends of linear DNA. Enzymatic and/or structural roles in the rejoining of DSB termini have been postulated for several proteins within the group. Most yeast NHEJ genes have homologues in human cells and many biochemical activities and protein:protein interactions have been conserved in higher eucaryotes. Similarities and differences between NHEJ repair in yeast and mammalian cells are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA Repair / physiology*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins*
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases*
  • Exodeoxyribonucleases*
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins*
  • Telomere / genetics
  • Telomere / metabolism


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Fungal Proteins
  • RAD50 protein, S cerevisiae
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • XRS2 protein, S cerevisiae
  • DNA
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases
  • Exodeoxyribonucleases
  • MRE11 protein, S cerevisiae