DNA double-strand breaks associated with replication forks are predominantly repaired by homologous recombination involving an exchange mechanism in mammalian cells

J Mol Biol. 2001 Apr 13;307(5):1235-45. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.2001.4564.


DNA double-strand breaks (DSB) represent a major disruption in the integrity of the genome. DSB can be generated when a replication fork encounters a DNA lesion. Recombinational repair is known to resolve such replication fork-associated DSB, but the molecular mechanism of this repair process is poorly understood in mammalian cells. In the present study, we investigated the molecular mechanism by which recombination resolves camptothecin (CPT)-induced DSB at DNA replication forks. The frequency of homologous recombination (HR) was measured using V79/SPD8 cells which contain a duplication in the endogenous hprt gene that is resolved by HR. We demonstrate that DSB associated with replication forks induce HR at the hprt gene in early S phase. Further analysis revealed that these HR events involve an exchange mechanism. Both the irs1SF and V3-3 cell lines, which are deficient in HR and non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), respectively, were found to be more sensitive than wild-type cells to DSB associated with replication forks. The irs1SF cell line was more sensitive in this respect than V3-3 cells, an observation consistent with the hypothesis that DSB associated with replication forks are repaired primarily by HR. The frequency of formation of DSB associated with replication forks was not affected in HR and NHEJ deficient cells, indicating that the loss of repair, rather than the formation of DSB associated with replication forks is responsible for the increased sensitivity of the mutant strains. We propose that the presence of DSB associated with replication forks rapidly induces HR via an exchange mechanism and that HR plays a more prominent role in the repair of such DSB than does NHEJ.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Camptothecin / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Cricetinae
  • Cytotoxins / pharmacology
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • DNA Damage / genetics*
  • DNA Repair / drug effects
  • DNA Repair / genetics*
  • DNA Replication / genetics*
  • DNA-Activated Protein Kinase
  • DNA-Binding Proteins*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Deletion
  • Hypoxanthine Phosphoribosyltransferase / genetics
  • Models, Genetic
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Recombination, Genetic / drug effects
  • Recombination, Genetic / genetics*
  • S Phase
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid*


  • Cytotoxins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • DNA
  • Hypoxanthine Phosphoribosyltransferase
  • DNA-Activated Protein Kinase
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Camptothecin