Genes Possessing the Most Frequent DNA DSBs Are Highly Associated with Development and Cancers, and Essentially Overlap with the rDNA-Contacting Genes

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Jun 28;23(13):7201. doi: 10.3390/ijms23137201.


Double-strand DNA breakes (DSBs) are the most deleterious and widespread examples of DNA damage. They inevitably originate from endogenous mechanisms in the course of transcription, replication, and recombination, as well as from different exogenous factors. If not properly repaired, DSBs result in cell death or diseases. Genome-wide analysis of DSBs has revealed the numerous endogenous DSBs in human chromosomes. However, until now, it has not been clear what kind of genes are preferentially subjected to breakage. We performed a genetic and epigenetic analysis of the most frequent DSBs in HEK293T cells. Here, we show that they predominantly occur in the active genes controlling differentiation, development, and morphogenesis. These genes are highly associated with cancers and other diseases. About one-third of the genes possessing frequent DSBs correspond to rDNA-contacting genes. Our data suggest that a specific set of active genes controlling morphogenesis are the main targets of DNA breakage in human cells, although there is a specific set of silent genes controlling metabolism that also are enriched in DSBs. We detected this enrichment by different activators and repressors of transcription at DSB target sites, as well breakage at promoters. We propose that both active transcription and silencing of genes give a propensity for DNA breakage. These results have implications for medicine and gene therapy.

Keywords: 4C-rDNA; DNA double strand breaks (DSBs); HEK293T; cancers; differentiation; epigenetics; morphogenesis; rDNA-contacting genes; whole-genome analysis.

MeSH terms

  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded*
  • DNA Repair
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms*


  • DNA, Ribosomal