To safeguard genome integrity in response to DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), mammalian cells mobilize the neighbouring chromatin to shield DNA ends against excessive resection that could undermine repair fidelity and cause damage to healthy chromosomes1. This form of genome surveillance is orchestrated by 53BP1, whose accumulation at DSBs triggers sequential recruitment of RIF1 and the shieldin-CST-POLα complex2. How this pathway reflects and influences the three-dimensional nuclear architecture is not known. Here we use super-resolution microscopy to show that 53BP1 and RIF1 form an autonomous functional module that stabilizes three-dimensional chromatin topology at sites of DNA breakage. This process is initiated by accumulation of 53BP1 at regions of compact chromatin that colocalize with topologically associating domain (TAD) sequences, followed by recruitment of RIF1 to the boundaries between such domains. The alternating distribution of 53BP1 and RIF1 stabilizes several neighbouring TAD-sized structures at a single DBS site into an ordered, circular arrangement. Depletion of 53BP1 or RIF1 (but not shieldin) disrupts this arrangement and leads to decompaction of DSB-flanking chromatin, reduction in interchromatin space, aberrant spreading of DNA repair proteins, and hyper-resection of DNA ends. Similar topological distortions are triggered by depletion of cohesin, which suggests that the maintenance of chromatin structure after DNA breakage involves basic mechanisms that shape three-dimensional nuclear organization. As topological stabilization of DSB-flanking chromatin is independent of DNA repair, we propose that, besides providing a structural scaffold to protect DNA ends against aberrant processing, 53BP1 and RIF1 safeguard epigenetic integrity at loci that are disrupted by DNA breakage.
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Cell Cycle Proteins, Cell Line, Tumor, Chromatin, DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded, DNA Repair, DNA-Binding Proteins, Genomic Instability, Humans, Nucleic Acid Conformation, Telomere-Binding Proteins, Tumor Suppressor p53-Binding Protein 1