In mammalian cells, ionizing radiation (IR)-induced DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are repaired in all phases of the cell cycle predominantly by classical, DNA-PK-dependent nonhomologous end joining (D-NHEJ). Homologous recombination repair (HRR) is functional during the S- and G2-phases, when a sister chromatid becomes available. An error-prone, alternative form of end joining, operating as backup (B-NHEJ) functions robustly throughout the cell cycle and particularly in the G2-phase and is thought to backup predominantly D-NHEJ. Parp-1, DNA-ligases 1 (Lig1) and 3 (Lig3), and Xrcc1 are implicated in B-NHEJ. Chromosome and chromatid translocations are manifestations of erroneous DSB repair and are crucial culprits in malignant transformation and IR-induced cell lethality. We analyzed shifts in translocation formation deriving from defects in D-NHEJ or HRR in cells irradiated in the G2-phase and identify B-NHEJ as the main DSB repair pathway backing up both of these defects at the cost of a large increase in translocation formation. Our results identify Parp-1 and Lig1 and 3 as factors involved in translocation formation and show that Xrcc1 reinforces the function of Lig3 in the process without being required for it. Finally, we demonstrate intriguing connections between B-NHEJ and DNA end resection in translocation formation and show that, as for D-NHEJ and HRR, the function of B-NHEJ facilitates the recovery from the G2-checkpoint. These observations advance our understanding of chromosome aberration formation and have implications for the mechanism of action of Parp inhibitors.
© The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.