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Conformational Analysis of DNA Repair Intermediates by Time-Resolved Fluorescence Spectroscopy

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DNA repair enzymes are essential for maintaining the integrity of the DNA sequence. Unfortunately, very little is known about how these enzymes recognize damaged regions along the helix. Structural analysis of cellular repair enzymes bound to DNA reveals that these enzymes are able to recognize DNA in a variety of conformations. However, the prevalence of these deformations in the absence of enzymes remains unclear, as small populations of DNA conformations are often difficult to detect by NMR and X-ray crystallography. Here, we used time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy to examine the conformational dynamics of linear, nicked, gapped, and bulged DNA in the absence of protein enzymes. This analysis reveals that damaged DNA is polymorphic in nature and able to adopt multiple individual conformations. We show that DNA repair intermediates that contain a one-nucleotide gap and bulge have a significant propensity to adopt conformations in which the orphan base resides outside the DNA helix, while DNA structures damaged by a nick or two-nucleotide gap favor intrahelical conformations. Because changes in DNA conformation appear to guide the recognition of DNA repair enzymes, we suggest that the current approach could be used to study the mechanism of DNA repair.

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