Nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) and homologous recombination (HR) are two major pathways for repairing DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs); however, their respective roles in human somatic cells remain to be elucidated. Here we show using a series of human gene-knockout cell lines that NHEJ repairs nearly all of the topoisomerase II- and low-dose radiation-induced DNA damage, while it negatively affects survival of cells harbouring replication-associated DSBs. Intriguingly, we find that loss of DNA ligase IV, a critical NHEJ ligase, and Artemis, an NHEJ factor with endonuclease activity, independently contribute to increased resistance to replication-associated DSBs. We also show that loss of Artemis alleviates hypersensitivity of DNA ligase IV-null cells to low-dose radiation- and topoisomerase II-induced DSBs. Finally, we demonstrate that Artemis-null human cells display increased gene-targeting efficiencies, particularly in the absence of DNA ligase IV. Collectively, these data suggest that DNA ligase IV and Artemis act cooperatively to promote NHEJ, thereby suppressing HR. Our results point to the possibility that HR can only operate on accidental DSBs when NHEJ is missing or abortive, and Artemis may be involved in pathway switching from incomplete NHEJ to HR.