Non-homologous end-joining: bacteria join the chromosome breakdance

Trends Biochem Sci. 2003 Feb;28(2):62-6. doi: 10.1016/S0968-0004(03)00005-7.


The repair of DNA double-strand breaks by non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) has long been thought to be restricted to eukaryotes. However, recent papers document the existence of operons encoding functional NHEJ complexes in some bacteria. These findings provide new evolutionary insights into the core biochemistry of this repair pathway, and suggest that one function driving the selection of NHEJ in bacteria, and perhaps eukaryotes, relates to prolonged periods of mitotic exit.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Chromosomes, Bacterial / genetics*
  • DNA Ligases / genetics
  • DNA Repair*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • DNA Ligases