Break-induced replication: functions and molecular mechanism

Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2013 Jun;23(3):271-9. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2013.05.007. Epub 2013 Jun 18.


Break-induced replication (BIR) is the pathway of homologous recombination (HR) conserved from phages to eukaryotes that serves to repair DNA breaks that have only one end. BIR contributes to the repair of broken replication forks and allows telomere lengthening in the absence of telomerase. Nonallelic BIR may lead to translocations and other chromosomal rearrangements. In addition, BIR initiated at sites of microhomology can generate copy number variations (CNVs) and complex chromosomal changes. The level of mutagenesis associated with DNA synthesis in BIR is significantly higher than during normal replication. These features make BIR a likely pathway to promote bursts of genetic changes that fuel cancer progression and evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromosome Aberrations
  • DNA Breaks, Single-Stranded*
  • DNA Copy Number Variations / genetics*
  • DNA Repair / genetics
  • DNA Replication / genetics
  • Genome, Human
  • Homologous Recombination / genetics
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Telomere Homeostasis / genetics*