Cellular DNA is constantly being damaged by numerous internal and external mutagenic factors. Probably the most severe type of insults DNA could suffer are the double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs). They sever both DNA strands and compromise genomic stability, causing deleterious chromosomal aberrations that are implicated in numerous maladies, including cancer. Not surprisingly, cells have evolved several DSB repair pathways encompassing hundreds of different DNA repair proteins to cope with this challenge. In eukaryotic cells, DSB repair is fulfilled in the immensely complex environment of the chromatin. The chromatin is not just a passive background that accommodates the multitude of DNA repair proteins, but it is a highly dynamic and active participant in the repair process. Chromatin alterations, such as changing patterns of histone modifications shaped by numerous histone-modifying enzymes and chromatin remodeling, are pivotal for proficient DSB repair. Dynamic chromatin changes ensure accessibility to the damaged region, recruit DNA repair proteins, and regulate their association and activity, contributing to DSB repair pathway choice and coordination. Given the paramount importance of DSB repair in tumorigenesis and cancer progression, DSB repair has turned into an attractive target for the development of novel anticancer therapies, some of which have already entered the clinic.
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