The DNA dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) is a trimeric nuclear complex consisting of a large protein kinase and the Ku heterodimer that regulates kinase activity by its association with DNA. Recent findings have shown structural similarities between DNA-PK and a family of lipid and putative protein kinases (PIK family). DNA-PK is one of the PIK members known to be a protein kinase with clearly identified effector subunits. A broad range of observations link DNA-PK to dual roles in double strand DNA break (DSB) repair and transcription. Unlike its most closely related PIKs, DNA-PK is not required for activating cell cycle regulated DNA damage signalling mechanisms. Instead, the phenotypes and biochemical properties of DNA-PK are most consistent with functions in DSB repair and joining steps in recombination mechanisms. DNA-PK is associated with RNA polymerase II and RNA polymerase I transcription complexes, where it most frequently has a negative regulatory role.