In vitro non-homologous DNA end joining assays-The 20th anniversary

Elzbieta Pastwa*, Richard I. Somiari, Mariusz Malinowski, Stella B. Somiari, Thomas A. Winters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are the most serious forms of DNA damage in cells. Unrepaired or misrepaired DSBs account for some of the genetic instabilities that lead to mutations or cell death, and consequently, to cancer predisposition. In human cells non-homologous DNA end joining (NHEJ) is the main repair mechanism of these breaks. Systems for DNA end joining study have been developing during the last 20 years. New assays have some advantages over earlier in vitro DSBs repair assays because they are less time-consuming, allow the use of clinical material and examination of the joining DNA ends produced physiologically in mammalian cells. Proteins involved in NHEJ repair pathway can serve as biomarkers or molecular targets for anticancer drugs. Results of studies on NHEJ in cancer could help to select potent repair inhibitors that may selectively sensitize tumor cells to ionizing radiation (IR) and chemotherapy. Here, we review the principles and practice of in vitro NHEJ assays and provide some insights into the future prospects of this assay in cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1254-1260
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Anticancer drugs
  • DNA double-strand breaks
  • DNA repair
  • In vitro assays
  • Non-homologous DNA end joining


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