Polμ tumor variants decrease the efficiency and accuracy of NHEJ

Nucleic Acids Res. 2017 Sep 29;45(17):10018-10031. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkx625.


The non homologous end-joining (NHEJ) pathway of double-strand break (DSB) repair often requires DNA synthesis to fill the gaps generated upon alignment of the broken ends, a complex task performed in human cells by two specialized DNA polymerases, Polλ and Polμ. It is now well established that Polμ is the one adapted to repair DSBs with non-complementary ends, the most challenging scenario, although the structural basis and physiological implications of this adaptation are not fully understood. Here, we demonstrate that two human Polμ point mutations, G174S and R175H, previously identified in two different tumor samples and affecting two adjacent residues, limit the efficiency of accurate NHEJ by Polμ in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, we show that this limitation is the consequence of a decreased template dependency during NHEJ, which renders the error-rate of the mutants higher due to the ability of Polμ to randomly incorporate nucleotides at DSBs. These results highlight the relevance of the 8 kDa domain of Polμ for accurate and efficient NHEJ, but also its contribution to the error-prone behavior of Polμ at 2-nt gaps. This work provides the first demonstration that mutations affecting Polμ identified in tumors can alter the efficiency and fidelity of NHEJ.

MeSH terms

  • Arginine / chemistry
  • Conserved Sequence
  • DNA End-Joining Repair / genetics*
  • DNA End-Joining Repair / physiology
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / chemistry
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / genetics*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / physiology
  • Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay
  • Glycine / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutagenesis / physiology*
  • Mutation, Missense*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / chemistry
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins / physiology
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / metabolism
  • Point Mutation*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Domains
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • Arginine
  • DNA polymerase mu
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • Glycine