DNA repair by homologous recombination, but not by nonhomologous end joining, is elevated in breast cancer cells

Neoplasia. 2009 Jul;11(7):683-91. doi: 10.1593/neo.09312.


Aberrant double-stranded break (DSB) repair leads to genomic instability, which is a hallmark of malignant cells. Double-stranded breaks are repaired by two pathways: homologous recombination (HR) and nonhomologous DNA end joining (NHEJ). It is not known whether these repair pathways are affected in sporadic breast tumors. Here, we examined the efficiency of HR and NHEJ repair in a panel of sporadic breast cancer cell lines and tested whether the efficiency of HR or NHEJ correlates with radioresistance. Homologous recombination and NHEJ in breast cancer cells were analyzed using in vivo fluorescent assays. Unexpectedly, our analysis revealed that the efficiency of HR is significantly elevated in breast cancer cells compared with normal mammary epithelial cells. In contrast, the efficiency of NHEJ in breast cancer cells is not different from normal cells. Overall, breast cancer cells were more sensitive to radiation than normal cells, but the levels of resistance did not correlate with either HR or NHEJ efficiency. Thus, we demonstrate that sporadic breast cancers are not associated with a deficiency in DSB repair, but rather with upregulation of the HR pathway. Our finding of elevated HR in sporadic breast cancer cell lines suggests that therapies directed against the components of HR will be highly tumor-specific.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded* / radiation effects
  • DNA Repair / genetics*
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans