Homologous recombination mediates cellular resistance and fraction size sensitivity to radiation therapy

Navita Somaiah*, John Yarnold, Anne Lagerqvist, Kai Rothkamm, Thomas Helleday

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    28 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose Cellular sensitivity to radiotherapy total dose and fraction size is strongly influenced by DNA double strand break (DSB) repair. Here, we investigate response to radiotherapy fraction size using CHO cell lines deficient in specific DNA repair pathways in response to radiation induced DNA double strand breaks (DSB). Experimental design We irradiated CHO cell lines, AA8 (WT), irs1SF (XRCC3-), V3-3 (DNA-PKcs-) and EM9 (XRCC1-) with 16 Gy in 1 Gy daily fractions over 3 weeks or 16 Gy in 4 Gy daily fractions over 4 days, and studied clonogenic survival, DNA DSB repair kinetics (RAD51 and 53BP1 foci staining) and cell cycle profiles (flow cytometry). Results In response to fractionated radiotherapy, wild-type and DNA repair defective cells accumulated in late S/G2 phase. In cells proficient in homologous recombination (HR), accumulation in S/G2 resulted in reduced sensitivity to fraction size and increased cellular resistance (clonogenic survival). Sensitivity to fraction size was also lost in NHEJ-defective V3-3 cells, which likely rely on functional HR. By contrast, HR-defective irs1SF cells, with functional NHEJ, remained equally sensitive to fractionation throughout the 3-week treatment. Conclusions The high fidelity of HR, which is independent of induced DNA damage level, is postulated to explain the low fractionation sensitivity and cellular resistance of cells in S/G2 phase. In conclusion, our results suggest that HR mediates resistance to fractionated radiotherapy, an observation that may help future efforts to improve radiotherapy outcome.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)155-161
    Number of pages7
    JournalRadiotherapy and Oncology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    This study has been kindly funded by the Breast Cancer Campaign charity, grant reference 2006NovPR11; the Swedish Cancer Society and the Swedish Research Council. We also acknowledge NHS funding to the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre and the NIHR Centre for Research in Health Protection. There are no conflicts of interest.


    • Cell cycle
    • DNA double-strand break repair
    • Fraction size sensitivity
    • Fractionated radiotherapy
    • Homologous recombination


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