Imprecision and DNA Break Repair Biased towards Incompatible End Joining in Leukemia

Mol Cancer Res. 2018 Mar;16(3):428-438. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-17-0373. Epub 2017 Dec 8.


Cancer is a genetic disease caused by mutations and chromosomal abnormalities that contribute to uncontrolled cell growth. In addition, cancer cells can rapidly respond to conventional and targeted therapies by accumulating novel and often specific genetic lesions leading to acquired drug resistance and relapsing disease. In chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), however, diverse chromosomal aberrations often occur. In many cases, improper repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSB) is a major source for genomic abnormalities. Therefore, this study examined the repair of DNA DSBs by nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) in CLL by performing plasmid-based repair assays in primary CLL cells and normal B cells, isolated from patients, as well as TALEN/Cas9-induced chromosomal deletions in the CLL cell line Mec1. It is demonstrated that DNA repair is aberrant in CLL cells, featuring perturbed DNA break structure preference with efficient joining of noncohesive ends and more deletions at repair junctions. In addition, increased microhomology-mediated end joining (MMEJ) of DNA substrates was observed in CLL together with increased expression of MMEJ-specific repair factors. In summary, these data identify major differences in DNA repair efficiency between CLL cells and normal B cells isolated from patients.Implications: This study suggests inherently aberrant DNA DSB repair in the acquisition of subclonal genomic structural variations important for clonal evolution and treatment resistance in CLL. Mol Cancer Res; 16(3); 428-38. ©2017 AACR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA End-Joining Repair*
  • DNA Ligase ATP / biosynthesis
  • DNA Ligase ATP / genetics
  • DNA Ligase ATP / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / genetics*
  • Transfection
  • X-ray Repair Cross Complementing Protein 1 / biosynthesis
  • X-ray Repair Cross Complementing Protein 1 / genetics
  • X-ray Repair Cross Complementing Protein 1 / metabolism


  • LIG1 protein, human
  • X-ray Repair Cross Complementing Protein 1
  • XRCC1 protein, human
  • DNA Ligase ATP