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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Microhomology-mediated end joining is activated in irradiated human cells due to phosphorylation-dependent formation of the XRCC1 repair complex


Microhomology-mediated end joining (MMEJ), an error-prone pathway for DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair, is implicated in genomic rearrangement and oncogenic transformation; however, its contribution to repair of radiation-induced DSBs has not been characterized. We used recircularization of a linearized plasmid with 3΄-P-blocked termini, mimicking those at X-ray-induced strand breaks, to recapitulate DSB repair via MMEJ or nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ). Sequence analysis of the circularized plasmids allowed measurement of relative activity of MMEJ versus NHEJ. While we predictably observed NHEJ to be the predominant pathway for DSB repair in our assay, MMEJ was significantly enhanced in preirradiated cells, independent of their radiation-induced arrest in the G2/M phase. MMEJ activation was dependent on XRCC1 phosphorylation by casein kinase 2 (CK2), enhancing XRCC1's interaction with the end resection enzymes MRE11 and CtIP. Both endonuclease and exonuclease activities of MRE11 were required for MMEJ, as has been observed for homology-directed DSB repair (HDR). Furthermore, the XRCC1 co-immunoprecipitate complex (IP) displayed MMEJ activity in vitro, which was significantly elevated after irradiation. Our studies thus suggest that radiation-mediated enhancement of MMEJ in cells surviving radiation therapy may contribute to their radioresistance and could be therapeutically targeted.

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