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Cell. 1996 Jul 26;86(2):321-9.

Structural basis for the excision repair of alkylation-damaged DNA.

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  • 1Harvard Medical School, Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Boston, Massachusetts02115, USA.


Base-excision DNA repair proteins that target alkylation damage act on a variety of seemingly dissimilar adducts, yet fail to recognize other closely related lesions. The 1.8 A crystal structure of the monofunctional DNA glycosylase AlkA (E. coli 3-methyladenine-DNA glycosylase II) reveals a large hydrophobic cleft unusually rich in aromatic residues. An Asp residue projecting into this cleft is essential for catalysis, and it governs binding specificity for mechanism-based inhibitors. We propose that AlkA recognizes electron-deficient methylated bases through pi-donor/acceptor interactions involving the electron-rich aromatic cleft. Remarkably, AlkA is similar in fold and active site location to the bifunctional glycosylase/lyase endonuclease III, suggesting the two may employ fundamentally related mechanisms for base excision.

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