Insights into the Non-Homologous End Joining Pathway and Double Strand Break End Mobility Provided by Mechanistic In Silico Modelling

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After radiation exposure, one of the critical processes for cellular survival is the repair of DNA double strand breaks. The pathways involved in this response are complex in nature and involve many individual steps that act across different time scales, all of which combine to produce an overall behaviour. It is therefore experimentally challenging to unambiguously determine the mechanisms involved and how they interact whilst maintaining strict control of all confounding variables. In silico methods can provide further insight into results produced by focused experimental investigations through testing of the hypotheses generated. Such computational testing can asses competing hypotheses by investigating their effects across all time scales concurrently, highlighting areas where further experimental work can have the most significance. We describe the construction of a mechanistic model by combination of several hypothesised mechanisms reported in the literature and supported by experiment. Compatibility of these mechanisms was tested by fitting simulation to results reported in the literature. To avoid over-fitting, we used an approach of sequentially testing individual mechanisms within this pathway. We demonstrate that using this approach the model is capable of reproducing published protein kinetics and overall repair trends. This provides evidence supporting the feasibility of the proposed mechanisms and revealed how they interact to produce an overall behaviour. Furthermore, we show that the assumed motion of individual double strand break ends plays a crucial role in determining overall system behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDNA Repair
Early online date20 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • DSB Repair
  • Non-homologous end joining
  • DSB motion
  • DSB synapsis
  • Mechanistic biological modelling
  • Mote Carlo modelling

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Cancer
  • Manchester Cancer Research Centre


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