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Highly Accessed Open Badges Review

DNA-dependent protein kinase and DNA repair: relevance to Alzheimer's disease

Jyotshna Kanungo

Author Affiliations

Division of Neurotoxicology, National Center for Toxicological Research, US Food and Drug Administration, 3900 NCTR Road, Jefferson, AR 72079, USA

Alzheimer's Research & Therapy 2013, 5:13  doi:10.1186/alzrt167

Published: 8 April 2013


The pathological hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD), the leading cause of senile dementia, involves region-specific neuronal death and an accumulation of neuronal and extracellular lesions termed neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques, respectively. One of the biochemical abnormalities observed in AD is reduced DNA end-joining activity. The reduced capacity of post-mitotic neurons for some types of DNA repair is further compromised by aging. The predominant mechanism to repair double-strand DNA (dsDNA) breaks (DSB) is non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), which requires DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) activity. DNA-PK is a holoenzyme comprising the p460 kDa DNA-PK catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) and the Ku heterodimer consisting of p86 (Ku 80) and p70 (Ku 70) subunits. Ku binds to DNA ends first and then recruits DNA-PKcs during NHEJ. However, in AD brains, reduced NHEJ activity has been reported along with reduced levels of DNA-PKcs and the Ku proteins, indicating a potential link between AD and dsDNA damage. Since age-matched control brains also show a reduction in these protein levels, whether there is a direct link between NHEJ ability and AD remains unknown. Possible mechanisms involving the role of DNA-PK in neurodegeneration, a benchmark of AD, are the focus of this review.