H2AX is expressed at very low levels in quiescent normal cells in vivo and in vitro. Such cells repair DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) induced by γ-irradiation through a transient stabilization of H2AX. However, the resultant cells accumulate small numbers of irreparable (or persistent) DSBs via an unknown mechanism. We found that quiescent cells that had repaired DSBs directly induced by γ-rays were prone to accumulate DSBs during the subsequent DNA replication. Unlike directly induced DSBs, secondary DSBs were not efficiently repaired, although Rad51 and 53BP1 were recruited to these sites. H2AX was dramatically stabilized in response to DSBs directly caused by γ-rays, enabling γH2AX foci formation and DSB repair, whereas H2AX was barely stabilized in response to secondary DSBs, in which γH2AX foci were small and DSBs were not efficiently repaired. Our results show a pathway that leads to the persistent DSB formation after γ-irradiation.