Increased Gene Targeting in Hyper-Recombinogenic LymphoBlastoid Cell Lines Leaves Unchanged DSB Processing by Homologous Recombination
In the cells of higher eukaryotes, sophisticated mechanisms have evolved to repair DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). Classical nonhomologous end joining (c-NHEJ), homologous recombination (HR), alternative end joining (alt-EJ) and single-strand annealing (SSA) exploit distinct principles to repair DSBs throughout the cell cycle, resulting in repair outcomes of different fidelity. In addition to their functions in DSB repair, the same repair pathways determine how cells integrate foreign DNA or rearrange their genetic information. As a consequence, random integration of DNA fragments is dominant in somatic cells of higher eukaryotes and suppresses integration events at homologous genomic locations, leading to very low gene-targeting efficiencies. However, this response is not universal, and embryonic stem cells display increased targeting efficiency. Additionally, lymphoblastic chicken and human cell lines DT40 and NALM6 show up to a 1000-fold increased gene-targeting efficiency that is successfully harnessed to generate knockouts for a large number of genes. We inquired whether the increased gene-targeting efficiency of DT40 and NALM6 cells is linked to increased rates of HR-mediated DSB repair after exposure to ionizing radiation (IR). We analyzed IR-induced γ-H2AX foci as a marker for the total number of DSBs induced in a cell and RAD51 foci as a marker for the fraction of those DSBs undergoing repair by HR. We also evaluated RPA accretion on chromatin as evidence for ongoing DNA end resection, an important initial step for all pathways of DSB repair except c-NHEJ. We finally employed the DR-GFP reporter assay to evaluate DSB repair by HR in DT40 cells. Collectively, the results obtained, unexpectedly show that DT40 and NALM6 cells utilized HR for DSB repair at levels very similar to those of other somatic cells. These observations uncouple gene-targeting efficiency from HR contribution to DSB repair and suggest the function of additional mechanisms increasing gene-targeting efficiency. Indeed, our results show that analysis of the contribution of HR to DSB repair may not be used as a proxy for gene-targeting efficiency.