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Three genetic complementation groups of rodent cells are defective for both repair of x-ray-induced double-strand breaks and V(D)J recombination. Cells from one group lack a DNA end-binding activity that is biochemically and antigenically similar to the Ku autoantigen. Transfection of complementary DNA (cDNA) that encoded the 86-kilodalton subunit of Ku rescued these mutant cells for DNA end-binding activity, x-ray resistance, and V(D)J recombination activity. These results establish a role for Ku in DNA repair and recombination. Furthermore, as a component of a DNA-dependent protein kinase, Ku may initiate a signaling pathway induced by DNA damage.