Regulation and mechanisms of mammalian double-strand break repair

Oncogene. 2003 Sep 1;22(37):5792-812. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1206679.


The double-strand break (DSB) is believed to be one of the most severe types of DNA damage, and if left unrepaired is lethal to the cell. Several different types of repair act on the DSB. The most important in mammalian cells are nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) and homologous recombination repair (HRR). NHEJ is the predominant type of DSB repair in mammalian cells, as opposed to lower eucaryotes, but HRR has recently been implicated in critical cell signaling and regulatory functions that are essential for cell viability. Whereas NHEJ repair appears constitutive, HRR is regulated by the cell cycle and inducible signal transduction pathways. More is known about the molecular details of NHEJ than HRR in mammalian cells. This review focuses on the mechanisms and regulation of DSB repair in mammalian cells, the signaling pathways that regulate these processes and the potential crosstalk between NHEJ and HRR, and between repair and other stress-induced pathways with emphasis on the regulatory circuitry associated with the ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) protein.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / radiation effects
  • DNA Damage / radiation effects
  • DNA Repair / physiology*
  • Free Radicals
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • X-Rays / adverse effects


  • Free Radicals