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Genome Biol. 2002;3(4):REVIEWS3005. Epub 2002 Mar 19.

ATP-dependent DNA ligases.

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  • 1Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology, Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Edinburgh, King's Buildings, Edinburgh EH9 3JR, UK.



By catalyzing the joining of breaks in the phosphodiester backbone of duplex DNA, DNA ligases play a vital role in the diverse processes of DNA replication, recombination and repair. Three related classes of ATP-dependent DNA ligase are readily apparent in eukaryotic cells. Enzymes of each class comprise catalytic and non-catalytic domains together with additional domains of varying function. DNA ligase I is required for the ligation of Okazaki fragments during lagging-strand DNA synthesis, as well as for several DNA-repair pathways; these functions are mediated, at least in part, by interactions between DNA ligase I and the sliding-clamp protein PCNA. DNA ligase III, which is unique to vertebrates, functions both in the nucleus and in mitochondria. Two distinct isoforms of this enzyme, differing in their carboxy-terminal sequences, are produced by alternative splicing: DNA ligase IIIalpha has a carboxy-terminal BRCT domain that interacts with the mammalian DNA-repair factor XrccI, but both alpha and beta isoforms have an amino-terminal zinc-finger motif that appears to play a role in the recognition of DNA secondary structures that resemble intermediates in DNA metabolism. DNA ligase IV is required for DNA non-homologous end joining pathways, including recombination of the V(D)J immunoglobulin gene segments in cells of the mammalian immune system. DNA ligase IV forms a tight complex with Xrcc4 through an interaction motif located between a pair of carboxy-terminal BRCT domains in the ligase. Recent structural studies have shed light on the catalytic function of DNA ligases, as well as illuminating protein-protein interactions involving DNA ligases IIIalpha and IV.

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