Non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) and homologous recombination (HR) are the two prominent pathways responsible for the repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). NHEJ is not restricted to a cell-cycle stage, whereas HR is active primarily in the S/G2 phases suggesting there are cell cycle-specific mechanisms that play a role in the choice between NHEJ and HR. Here we show NHEJ is attenuated in S phase via modulation of the autophosphorylation status of the NHEJ factor DNA-PKcs at serine 2056 by the pro-HR factor BRCA1. BRCA1 interacts with DNA-PKcs in a cell cycle-regulated manner and this interaction is mediated by the tandem BRCT domain of BRCA1, but surprisingly in a phospho-independent manner. BRCA1 attenuates DNA-PKcs autophosphorylation via directly blocking the ability of DNA-PKcs to autophosphorylate. Subsequently, blocking autophosphorylation of DNA-PKcs at the serine 2056 phosphorylation cluster promotes HR-required DNA end processing and loading of HR factors to DSBs and is a possible mechanism by which BRCA1 promotes HR.
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