DNA repair mechanisms play a crucial role in maintaining genome integrity. However, the increased frequency of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) and genome rearrangements in aged individuals suggests an age-associated DNA repair deficiency. Previous work from our group revealed a delayed firing of the DNA damage response in human mammary epithelial cells (HMECs) from aged donors. We now report a decreased activity of the main DSB repair pathways, the canonical non-homologous end-joining (c-NHEJ) and the homologous recombination (HR) in these HMECs from older individuals. We describe here a deficient recruitment of 53BP1 to DSB sites in G1 cells, probably influenced by an altered epigenetic regulation. 53BP1 absence at some DSBs is responsible for the age-associated DNA repair defect, as it permits the ectopic formation of BRCA1 foci while still in the G1 phase. CtIP and RPA foci are also formed in G1 cells from aged donors, but RAD51 is not recruited, thus indicating that extensive DNA-end resection occurs in these breaks although HR is not triggered. These results suggest an age-associated switch of DSB repair from canonical to highly mutagenic alternative mechanisms that promote the formation of genome rearrangements, a source of genome instability that might contribute to the aging process.
- double-strand break repair
- non-homologous end-joining