Phospho-Ku70 induced by DNA damage interacts with RNA Pol II and promotes the formation of phospho-53BP1 foci to ensure optimal cNHEJ

Amelie Schellenbauer, Marie Noelle Guilly, Romain Grall, Romain Le Bars, Vincent Paget, Thierry Kortulewski, Haser Sutcu, Cécile Mathé, Marie Hullo, Denis Biard, François Leteurtre, Vilma Barroca, Youenn Corre, Lamya Irbah, Emilie Rass, Benoit Theze, Pascale Bertrand, Jeroen A.A. Demmers, Josée Guirouilh-Barbat, Bernard S. LopezSylvie Chevillard, Jozo Delic*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Canonical non-homologous end-joining (cNHEJ) is the prominent mammalian DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) repair pathway operative throughout the cell cycle. Phosphorylation of Ku70 at ser27-ser33 (pKu70) is induced by DNA DSBs and has been shown to regulate cNHEJ activity, but the underlying mechanism remained unknown. Here, we established that following DNA damage induction, Ku70 moves from nucleoli to the sites of damage, and once linked to DNA, it is phosphorylated. Notably, the novel emanating functions of pKu70 are evidenced through the recruitment of RNA Pol II and concomitant formation of phospho-53BP1 foci. Phosphorylation is also a prerequisite for the dynamic release of Ku70 from the repair complex through neddylation-dependent ubiquitylation. Although the non-phosphorylable ala-Ku70 form does not compromise the formation of the NHEJ core complex per se, cells expressing this form displayed constitutive and stress-inducible chromosomal instability. Consistently, upon targeted induction of DSBs by the I-SceI meganuclease into an intrachromosomal reporter substrate, cells expressing pKu70, rather than ala-Ku70, are protected against the joining of distal DNA ends. Collectively, our results underpin the essential role of pKu70 in the orchestration of DNA repair execution in living cells and substantiated the way it paves the maintenance of genome stability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11728-11745
Number of pages18
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

A.S. benefited from a fellowship from the French Ministry of Research and Technology (MRT); CEA; Fondation de France, CEA ‘Segment n ° 4 Radiobiology’; EDF; light microscopy facility of Imagerie-Gif (, a member of IBiSA (, supported by ‘France-BioImaging’ [ANR-10-INBS-04-01]; Labex ‘Saclay Plant Science’ [ANR-11-IDEX-0003-02]. Funding for open access charge: Institut de Radiobiologie Cellulaire et Moleculaire.

Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


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