Non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) is the principal repair mechanism used by mammalian cells to cope with double-strand breaks (DSBs) that continually occur in the genome. One of the key components of the mammalian NHEJ machinery is the DNA-PK complex, formed by the Ku86/70 heterodimer and the DNA-PK catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs). Here, we report on the detailed life-long follow-up of DNA-PKcs-defective mice. Apart from defining a role of DNA-PKcs in telomere length maintenance in the context of the ageing organism, we observed that DNA-PKcs-defective mice had a shorter life span and showed an earlier onset of ageing-related pathologies than the corresponding wild-type littermates. in addition, DNA-PKcs ablation was associated with a markedly higher incidence of T lymphomas and infections. In conclusion, these data link the dual role of DNA-PKcs in DNA repair and telomere length maintenance to organismal ageing and cancer. © 2004 European Molecular Biology Organization.
- DNA repair