The roles of RNA in DNA double-strand break repair

Br J Cancer. 2020 Mar;122(5):613-623. doi: 10.1038/s41416-019-0624-1. Epub 2020 Jan 2.


Effective DNA repair is essential for cell survival: a failure to correctly repair damage leads to the accumulation of mutations and is the driving force for carcinogenesis. Multiple pathways have evolved to protect against both intrinsic and extrinsic genotoxic events, and recent developments have highlighted an unforeseen critical role for RNA in ensuring genome stability. It is currently unclear exactly how RNA molecules participate in the repair pathways, although many models have been proposed and it is possible that RNA acts in diverse ways to facilitate DNA repair. A number of well-documented DNA repair factors have been described to have RNA-binding capacities and, moreover, screens investigating DNA-damage repair mechanisms have identified RNA-binding proteins as a major group of novel factors involved in DNA repair. In this review, we integrate some of these datasets to identify commonalities that might highlight novel and interesting factors for future investigations. This emerging role for RNA opens up a new dimension in the field of DNA repair; we discuss its impact on our current understanding of DNA repair processes and consider how it might influence cancer progression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded*
  • DNA Repair / genetics
  • DNA Repair / physiology*
  • Humans
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism
  • RNA / physiology*


  • RNA
  • DNA