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Science 339 (6120): 652-653

Copyright © 2013 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Shielding Broken DNA for a Quick Fix

Jiri Lukas, and Claudia Lukas

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.

Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 3b, 2200 Copenhagen, Denmark.

E-mail: claudia.lukas{at}; jiri.lukas{at}

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