The mutagenic potential of non-homologous end joining in the absence of the NHEJ core factors Ku70/80, DNA-PKcs and XRCC4-LigIV

Mutagenesis. 2007 May;22(3):217-33. doi: 10.1093/mutage/gem007. Epub 2007 Mar 7.


Non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), the major pathway of double-strand break (DSB) repair in mammalian cells, comprises two subpathways: one that requires the three core factors Ku70/80, DNA-PKcs and XRCC4/LigIV (DNA-PK-dependent NHEJ) and the other that is independent of these factors. Using a cell-free NHEJ assay, we have investigated the ability of three Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) mutants deficient in Ku80 (xrs6), DNA-PKcs (XR-C1) and XRCC4 (XR-1) in comparison with CHO-K1 wild-type cells to rejoin non-compatible DSB ends. Both NHEJ efficiency and fidelity are strongly reduced in the mutants with xrs6 and XR-1 exhibiting the strongest reduction and XR-C1 displaying a phenotype intermediate between the wild-type and the other two mutants indicating a non-essential but facilitating role of DNA-PKcs in NHEJ. The decrease in fidelity in the mutants is expressed by an increase of deletion junctions formed at microhomologies (microhom) near the DSB (microhomology-mediated non-homologous end joining: microhomNHEJ). Using a novel microhomNHEJ assay, we show that microhom regions of 6-10 bp that are located directly at the DSB termini strongly enhance the mutagenic microhomNHEJ reaction even in the wild type. Due to its error proneness, DNA-PK-independent microhomNHEJ may actively promote genome instability. It will, therefore, be of increasing importance to examine NHEJ fidelity in the context with tumorigenesis and cellular senescence for which we here provide two efficient and reliable tools.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Nuclear / genetics
  • Blotting, Western
  • CHO Cells
  • Cell Extracts
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded*
  • DNA Repair / genetics
  • DNA Repair / physiology*
  • DNA Repair Enzymes / deficiency*
  • DNA Repair Enzymes / genetics
  • DNA-Activated Protein Kinase / deficiency*
  • DNA-Activated Protein Kinase / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / deficiency*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Electrophoresis, Agar Gel
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Kinetics
  • Ku Autoantigen
  • Mutagenicity Tests / methods
  • Oligonucleotides / genetics


  • Antigens, Nuclear
  • Cell Extracts
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Oligonucleotides
  • DNA-Activated Protein Kinase
  • Ku Autoantigen
  • DNA Repair Enzymes