Nonhomologous DNA end-joining (NHEJ) is the predominant double-strand break (DSB) repair pathway throughout the cell cycle and accounts for nearly all DSB repair outside of the S and G2 phases. NHEJ relies on Ku to thread onto DNA termini and thereby improve the affinity of the NHEJ enzymatic components consisting of polymerases (Pol μ and Pol λ), a nuclease (the Artemis·DNA-PKcs complex), and a ligase (XLF·XRCC4·Lig4 complex). Each of the enzymatic components is distinctive for its versatility in acting on diverse incompatible DNA end configurations coupled with a flexibility in loading order, resulting in many possible junctional outcomes from one DSB. DNA ends can either be directly ligated or, if the ends are incompatible, processed until a ligatable configuration is achieved that is often stabilized by up to 4 bp of terminal microhomology. Processing of DNA ends results in nucleotide loss or addition, explaining why DSBs repaired by NHEJ are rarely restored to their original DNA sequence. Thus, NHEJ is a single pathway with multiple enzymes at its disposal to repair DSBs, resulting in a diversity of repair outcomes.
Keywords: DNA endonuclease; DNA repair; DNA-dependent serine/threonine protein kinase (DNA-PK); NHEJ; double-stranded DNA breaks; nucleic acid enzymology; protein structure.
© 2018 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.