Double-strand breaks and the concept of short- and long-term epigenetic memory

Christian Orlowski, Li-Jeen Mah, Raja S. Vasireddy, Assam El-Osta, Tom C. Karagiannis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Double-strand breaks represent an extremely cytolethal form of DNA damage and thus pose a serious threat to the preservation of genetic and epigenetic information. Though it is well-known that double-strand breaks such as those generated by ionising radiation are among the principal causative factors behind mutations, chromosomal aberrations, genetic instability and carcinogenesis, significantly less is known about the epigenetic consequences of double-strand break formation and repair for carcinogenesis. Double-strand break repair is a highly coordinated process that requires the unravelling of the compacted chromatin structure to facilitate repair machinery access and then restoration of the original undamaged chromatin state. Recent experimental findings have pointed to a potential mechanism for double-strand break-induced epigenetic silencing. This review will discuss some of the key epigenetic regulatory processes involved in double-strand break (DSB) repair and how incomplete or incorrect restoration of chromatin structure can leave a DSB-induced epigenetic memory of damage with potentially pathological repercussions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-149
Number of pages21
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011

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