A model for initial DNA lesion recognition by NER and MMR based on local conformational flexibility

Richard J. Isaacs, H. Peter Spielmann

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

86 Citations (SciVal)


Initial recognition of DNA damage is the crucial but poorly understood first step in DNA repair by the human nucleotide excision repair (NER) and mismatch repair (MMR) systems. Failure by NER or MMR to recognize DNA damage threatens the genetic integrity of the organism and may play a role in carcinogenesis. Both NER and MMR recognize and repair a wide variety of structurally dissimilar lesions against the background of normal DNA. Previous studies have suggested that detection of thermodynamic destabilization of DNA caused by covalent damage and base mismatches is a potential mechanism by which repair pathways with broad specificity such as NER and MMR recognize their substrates. However, both NER and MMR respectively, repair a wide variety of stabilizing and destabilizing covalent DNA lesions and base pair mismatches. A common feature of lesions that are both thermodynamically stabilizing and destabilizing is the alteration of the local DNA flexibility (dynamics). In this review we describe the experimental evidence for altered dynamics from NMR and thermodynamic studies on normal and damaged DNA molecules with respect to recognition by NER and MMR. Based on these data, we propose a model for initial detection of lesions by both NER and MMR that occurs through an indirect readout mechanism of alternative DNA conformations induced by covalent damage and base mismatches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-464
Number of pages10
JournalDNA Repair
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 4 2004


  • DNA dynamics
  • DNA lesion
  • Mismatch repair
  • NMR
  • Nucleotide excision repair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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