Laura Merker, Laura Feller, Annika Dorn, Holger Puchta

Deficiency of both classical and alternative end‐joining pathways leads to a synergistic defect in double‐strand break repair but not to an increase in homology‐dependent gene targeting in Arabidopsis

  • Cell Biology
  • Plant Science
  • Genetics

SUMMARYIn eukaryotes, double‐strand breaks (DSBs) are either repaired by homologous recombination (HR) or non‐homologous end‐joining (NHEJ). In somatic plant cells, HR is very inefficient. Therefore, the vast majority of DSBs are repaired by two different pathways of NHEJ. The classical (cNHEJ) pathway depends on the heterodimer KU70/KU80, while polymerase theta (POLQ) is central to the alternative (aNHEJ) pathway. Surprisingly, Arabidopsis plants are viable, even when both pathways are impaired. However, they exhibit severe growth retardation and reduced fertility. Analysis of mitotic anaphases indicates that the double mutant is characterized by a dramatic increase in chromosome fragmentation due to defective DSB repair. In contrast to the single mutants, the double mutant was found to be highly sensitive to the DSB‐inducing genotoxin bleomycin. Thus, both pathways can complement for each other efficiently in DSB repair. We speculated that in the absence of both NHEJ pathways, HR might be enhanced. This would be especially attractive for gene targeting (GT) in which predefined changes are introduced using a homologous template. Unexpectedly, the polq single mutant as well as the double mutant showed significantly lower GT frequencies in comparison to wildtype plants. Accordingly, we were able to show that elimination of both NHEJ pathways does not pose an attractive approach for Agrobacterium‐mediated GT. However, our results clearly indicate that a loss of cNHEJ leads to an increase in GT frequency, which is especially drastic and attractive for practical applications, in which the in planta GT strategy is used.

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