There are two types of chromosome instability, structural and numerical, and these are important in cancer. Many structural abnormalities are likely to involve double-strand DNA (dsDNA) breaks. Nonhomologous DNA end joining (NHEJ) and homologous recombination are the major pathways for repairing dsDNA breaks. NHEJ is the primary pathway for repairing dsDNA breaks throughout the G0, G1 and early S phases of the cell cycle . Ku86 and DNA ligase IV are two major proteins in the NHEJ pathway. We examined primary dermal fibroblasts from mice (wild type, Ku86(+/-), Ku86(-/-), and DNA ligase IV(+/-)) for chromosome breaks. Fibroblasts from Ku86(+/-) or DNA ligase IV(+/-) mice have elevated frequencies of chromosome breaks compared with those from wild-type mice. Fibroblasts from Ku86(-/-) mice have even higher levels of chromosome breaks. Primary pre-B cells from the same animals did not show significant accumulation of chromosome breaks. Rather the pre-B cells showed increased cell death. These studies demonstrate that chromosome breaks arise frequently and that NHEJ is required to repair this constant spontaneous damage.
Karanjawala, Z. E., Grawunder, U., Hsieh, C. L., & Lieber, M. R. (1999). The nonhomologous DNA end joining pathway is important for chromosome stability in primary fibroblasts. Current Biology, 9(24), 1501–1506. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0960-9822(00)80123-2