PerspectiveMolecular Biology

Shielding Broken DNA for a Quick Fix

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Science  08 Feb 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6120, pp. 652-653
DOI: 10.1126/science.1234602

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DNA double-strand breaks are constantly generated throughout the cellular life span, making the genome vulnerable to mutation and irreversible damage. Cells are equipped to mend such breaks through two mechanisms, each with positive and negative aspects: homology-directed repair (HDR), which tends not to make mistakes, but requires that a cell wait until DNA replication generates homologous templates; or a faster process called nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ), which, though error-prone, can rapidly "glue" DNA breaks together (1). Making the right choice between HDR and NHEJ is vital for genome integrity. Recent studies (2, 3), including those on page 711 and 700 of this issue by Di Virgilio et al. (4) and Zimmermann et al. (5), respectively, show how the HDR pathway is blocked so that the alternate repair process can proceed.