The Rad51 protein, a eukaryotic homologue of Escherichia coli RecA, plays a central role in both mitotic and meiotic homologous DNA recombination (HR) in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and is essential for the proliferation of vertebrate cells. Five vertebrate genes, RAD51B, -C, and -D and XRCC2 and -3, are implicated in HR on the basis of their sequence similarity to Rad51 (Rad51 paralogs). We generated mutants deficient in each of these proteins in the chicken B-lymphocyte DT40 cell line and report here the comparison of four new mutants and their complemented derivatives with our previously reported rad51b mutant. The Rad51 paralog mutations all impair HR, as measured by targeted integration and sister chromatid exchange. Remarkably, the mutant cell lines all exhibit very similar phenotypes: spontaneous chromosomal aberrations, high sensitivity to killing by cross-linking agents (mitomycin C and cisplatin), mild sensitivity to gamma rays, and significantly attenuated Rad51 focus formation during recombinational repair after exposure to gamma rays. Moreover, all mutants show partial correction of resistance to DNA damage by overexpression of human Rad51. We conclude that the Rad51 paralogs participate in repair as a functional unit that facilitates the action of Rad51 in HR.
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