Although the biochemical pathways that repair DNA-protein cross-links have not been clearly elucidated, it has been proposed that the partial proteolysis of cross-linked proteins into smaller oligopeptides constitutes an initial step in removal of these lesions by nucleotide excision repair (NER). To test the validity of this repair model, several site-specific DNA-peptide and DNA-protein cross-links were engineered via linkage at (1) an acrolein-derived γ-hydroxypropanodeoxyguanosine adduct and (2) an apurinic/apyrimidinic site, and the initiation of repair was examined in vitro using recombinant proteins UvrA and UvrB from Bacillus caldotenax and UvrC from Thermotoga maritima. The polypeptides cross-linked to DNA were Lys-Trp-Lys-Lys, Lys-Phe-His-Glu-Lys-His-His-Ser-His-Arg-Gly-Tyr, and the 16 kDa protein, T4 pyrimidine dimer glycosylase/apurinic/apyrimidinic site lyase. For the substrates examined, DNA incision required the coordinated action of all three proteins and occurred at the eighth phosphodiester bond 5′ to the lesion. The incision rates for DNA-peptide cross-links were comparable to or greater than that measured on fluorescein-adducted DNA, an excellent substrate for UvrABC. Incision rates were dependent on both the site of covalent attachment on the DNA and the size of the bound peptide. Importantly, incision of a DNA-protein cross-link occurred at a rate approximately 3.5-8-fold slower than the rates observed for DNA-peptide cross-links. Thus, direct evidence has been obtained indicating that (1) DNA-peptide cross-links can be efficiently incised by the NER proteins and (2) DNA-peptide cross-links are preferable substrates for this system relative to DNA-protein cross-links. These data suggest that proteolytic degradation of DNA-protein cross-links may be an important processing step in facilitating NER.
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