Classical nonhomologous end joining (C-NHEJ) is one of the two major known pathways for the repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in mammalian cells. Our understanding of C-NHEJ has been derived, in significant part, through studies of programmed physiologic DNA DSBs formed during V(D)J recombination in the developing immune system. Studies of immunoglobulin heavy-chain (IgH) class-switch recombination (CSR) also have revealed that there is an "alternative" end-joining process (A-EJ) that can function, relatively robustly, in the repair of DSBs in activated mature B lymphocytes. This A-EJ process has also been implicated in the formation of oncogenic translocations found in lymphoid tumors. In this review, we discuss our current understanding of C-NHEJ and A-EJ in the context of V(D)J recombination, CSR, and the formation of chromosomal translocations.
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