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Plant Cell. 1994 Nov;6(11):1635-1641.

DNA Damage Levels Determine Cyclobutyl Pyrimidine Dimer Repair Mechanisms in Alfalfa Seedlings.

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  • 1Biology Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, New York 11973-5000.


Ultraviolet radiation in sunlight damages DNA in plants, but little is understood about the types, lesion capacity, and coordination of repair pathways. We challenged intact alfalfa seedlings with UV doses that induced different initial levels of cyclobutyl pyrimidine dimers and measured repair by excision and photoreactivation. By using alkaline gel electrophoresis of nonradioactive DNAs treated with a cyclobutyl pyrimidine dimer-specific UV endonuclease, we quantitated ethidium-stained DNA by electronic imaging and calculated lesion frequencies from the number average molecular lengths. At low initial dimer frequencies (less than ~30 dimers per million bases), the seedlings used only photoreactivation to repair dimers; excision repair was not significant. At higher damage levels, both excision and photorepair contributed significantly. This strategy would allow plants with low damage levels to use error-free repair requiring only an external light energy source, whereas seedlings subjected to higher damage frequencies could call on additional repair processes requiring cellular energy. Characterization of repair in plants thus requires an investigation of a range of conditions, including the level of initial damage.

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