Repair Responses to DNA Damage: Enzymatic Pathways in E coli and Human Cells

Philip C. Hanawalt, Priscilla K. Cooper, Ann K. Ganesan, R. Stephen Lloyd, Charles A. Smith, Miriam E. Zolan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Bacteria and eukaryotic cells employ a variety of enzymatic pathways to remove damage from DNA or to lessen its impact upon cellular functions. Most of these processes were discovered in Escherichia coli and have been most extensively analyzed in this organism because suitable mutants have been isolated and characterized. Analogous pathways have been inferred to exist in mammalian cells from the presence of enzyme activities similar to those known to be involved in repair in bacteria, from the analysis of events in cells treated with DNA damaging agents, and from the analysis of the few naturally occurring mutant cell types. Excision repair of pyrimidine dimers produced by UV in E coli is initiated by an incision event catalyzed by a complex composed of uvrA, uvrB, and uvrC gene products. Multiple exonuclease and polymerase activities are available for the subsequent excision and resynthesis steps. In addition to the constitutive pathway, which produces short patches of 20–30 nucleotides, an inducible excision repair process exists that produces much longer patches. This long patch pathway is controlled by the recA‐lexA regulatory circuit and also requires the recF gene. It is apparently not responsible for UV‐induced mutagenesis. However, the ability to perform inducible long patch repair correlates with enhanced bacterial survival and with a major component of the Weigle reactivation of bacteriophage with double‐strand DNA genomes. Mammalian cells possess an excision repair pathway similar to the constitutive pathway in E coli. Although not as well understood, the incision event is at least as complex, and repair resynthesis produces patches of about the same size as the constitutive short patches. In mammalian cells, no patches comparable in size to those produced by the inducible pathway of E coli are observed. Repair in mammalian cells may be more complicated than in bacteria because of the structure of chromatin, which can affect both the distribution of DNA damage and its accessibility to repair enzymes. A coordinated alteration and reassembly of chromatin at sites of repair may be required. We have observed that the sensitivity of digestion by staphylococcal nuclease (SN) of newly synthesized repair patches resulting from excision of furocoumarin adducts changes with time in the same way as that of patches resulting from excision of pyrimidine dimers. Since furocoumarin adducts are formed only in the SN‐sensitive linker DNA between nucleosome cores, this suggests that after repair resynthesis is completed, the nucleosome cores in the region of the repair event do not return exactly to their original positions. We have also studied excision repair of UV and chemical damage in the highly repeated 172 base pair α DNA sequence in African green monkey cells. In UV irradiated cells, the rate and extent of repair resynthesis in this sequence is similar to that in bulk DNA. However, in cells containing furocoumarin adducts, repair resynthesis in α DNA is only about 30% of that in bulk DNA. Since the frequency of adducts does not seem to be reduced in α DNA, it appears that certain adducts in this unique DNA may be less accessible to repair. Endonuclease V of bacteriophage T4 incises DNA at pyrimidine dimers by cleaving first the glycosylic bond between deoxyribose and the 5′ pyrimidine of the dimer and then the phosphodiester bond between the two pyrimidines. We have cloned the gene (denV) that codes for this enzyme and have demonstrated its expression in uvrA recA and uvrB recA cells of E coli. Because T4 endonuclease V can alleviate the excision repair deficiency of xeroderma pigmentosum when added to permeabilized cells or to isolated nuclei after UV irradiation, the cloned denV gene may ultimately be of value for analyzing DNA repair pathways in cultured human cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-283
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of cellular biochemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1982
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA damage
  • E coli
  • excision repair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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