DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair pathway choice is governed by the opposing activities of 53BP1 and BRCA1. 53BP1 stimulates nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ), whereas BRCA1 promotes end resection and homologous recombination (HR). Here we show that 53BP1 is an inhibitor of BRCA1 accumulation at DSB sites, specifically in the G1 phase of the cell cycle. ATM-dependent phosphorylation of 53BP1 physically recruits RIF1 to DSB sites, and we identify RIF1 as the critical effector of 53BP1 during DSB repair. Remarkably, RIF1 accumulation at DSB sites is strongly antagonized by BRCA1 and its interacting partner CtIP. Lastly, we show that depletion of RIF1 is able to restore end resection and RAD51 loading in BRCA1-depleted cells. This work therefore identifies a cell cycle-regulated circuit, underpinned by RIF1 and BRCA1, that governs DSB repair pathway choice to ensure that NHEJ dominates in G1 and HR is favored from S phase onward.
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