Canonical Non-homologous End Joining in Mitosis Induces Genome Instability and Is Suppressed by M-phase-specific Phosphorylation of XRCC4

DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) can be repaired by one of two major pathways–non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) and homologous recombination (HR)–depending on whether cells are in G1 or S/G2 phase, respectively. However, the mechanisms of DSB repair during M phase remain largely unclear. In this study, we demonstrate that transient treatment of M-phase cells with the chemotherapeutic topoisomerase inhibitor etoposide induced DSBs that were often associated with anaphase bridge formation and genome instability such as dicentric chromosomes. Although most of the DSBs were carried over into the next G1 phase, some were repaired during M phase. Both NHEJ and HR, in particular NHEJ, promoted anaphase-bridge formation, suggesting that these repair pathways can induce genome instability during M phase. On the other hand, C-terminal-binding protein interacting protein (CtIP) suppressed anaphase bridge formation, implying that CtIP function prevents genome instability during mitosis.  We also observed M-phase-specific phosphorylation of XRCC4, a regulatory subunit of the ligase IV complex specialized for NHEJ. This phosphorylation required cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) activity as well as polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1). A phosphorylation-defective XRCC4 mutant showed more efficient M-phase DSB repair accompanied with an increase in anaphase bridge formation. These results suggest that phosphorylation of XRCC4 suppresses DSB repair by modulating ligase IV function to prevent genome instability during M phase. Taken together, our results indicate that XRCC4 is required not only for the promotion of NHEJ during interphase but also for its M-phase-specific suppression of DSB repair.

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