Alternative end joining (Alt-EJ) chromosomal break repair involves bypassing classical non-homologous end joining (c-NHEJ), and such repair causes mutations often with microhomology at the repair junction. Since the mediators of Alt-EJ are not well understood, we have sought to identify DNA damage response (DDR) factors important for this repair event. Using chromosomal break reporter assays, we surveyed an RNAi library targeting known DDR factors for siRNAs that cause a specific decrease in Alt-EJ, relative to an EJ event that is a composite of Alt-EJ and c-NHEJ (Distal-EJ between two tandem breaks). From this analysis, we identified several DDR factors that are specifically important for Alt-EJ relative to Distal-EJ. While these factors are from diverse pathways, we also found that most of them also promote homologous recombination (HR), including factors important for DNA crosslink repair, such as the Fanconi Anemia factor, FANCA. Since bypass of c-NHEJ is likely important for both Alt-EJ and HR, we disrupted the c-NHEJ factor Ku70 in Fanca-deficient mouse cells and found that Ku70 loss significantly diminishes the influence of Fanca on Alt-EJ. In contrast, an inhibitor of poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) causes a decrease in Alt-EJ that is enhanced by Ku70 loss. Additionally, the helicase/nuclease DNA2 appears to have distinct effects from FANCA and PARP on both Alt-EJ, as well as end resection. Finally, we found that the proteasome inhibitor Bortezomib, a cancer therapeutic that has been shown to disrupt FANC signaling, causes a significant reduction in both Alt-EJ and HR, relative to Distal-EJ, as well as a substantial loss of end resection. We suggest that several distinct DDR functions are important for Alt-EJ, which include promoting bypass of c-NHEJ and end resection.
Howard, S. M., Yanez, D. A., & Stark, J. M. (2015). DNA Damage Response Factors from Diverse Pathways, Including DNA Crosslink Repair, Mediate Alternative End Joining. PLoS Genetics, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1004943