Canonical non-homologous end joining (C-NHEJ) factors can assemble into a long-range (LR) complex with DNA ends relatively far apart that contains DNAPKcs, XLF, XRCC4, LIG4, and the KU heterodimer and a short-range (SR) complex lacking DNAPKcs that has the ends positioned for ligation. Since the SR complex can form de novo, the role of the LR complex (i.e., DNAPKcs) for chromosomal EJ is unclear. We have examined EJ of chromosomal blunt DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), and found that DNAPKcs is significantly less important than XLF for such EJ. However, weakening XLF via disrupting interaction interfaces causes a marked requirement for DNAPKcs, its kinase activity, and its ABCDE-cluster autophosphorylation sites for blunt DSB EJ. In contrast, other aspects of genome maintenance are sensitive to DNAPKcs kinase inhibition in a manner that is not further enhanced by XLF loss (i.e., suppression of homology-directed repair and structural variants, and IR-resistance). We suggest that DNAPKcs is required to position a weakened XLF in an LR complex that can transition into a functional SR complex for blunt DSB EJ, but also has distinct functions for other aspects of genome maintenance.
© 2022. The Author(s).