Nonhomologous end joining in yeast

James M. Daley, Phillip L. Palmbos, Dongliang Wu, Thomas E. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

288 Scopus citations


Nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ), the direct rejoining of DNA double-strand breaks, is closely associated with illegitimate recombination and chromosomal rearrangement. This has led to the concept that NHEJ is error prone. Studies with the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae have revealed that this model eukaryote has a classical NHEJ pathway dependent on Ku and DNA ligase IV, as well as alternative mechanisms for break rejoining. The evolutionary conservation of the Ku-dependent process includes several genes dedicated to this pathway, indicating that classical NHEJ at least is a strong contributor to fitness in the wild. Here we review how double-strand break structure, the yeast NHEJ proteins, and alternative rejoining mechanisms influence the accuracy of break repair. We also consider how the balance between NHEJ and homologous repair is regulated by cell state to promote genome preservation. The principles discussed are instructive to NHEJ in all organisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-451
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Genetics
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Double-strand break
  • Illegitimate recombination
  • Nonhomologous end joining
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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