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PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e39596. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0039596. Epub 2012 Jun 20.

DNA polymerase eta participates in the mutagenic bypass of adducts induced by benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide in mammalian cells.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, United States of America.


Y-family DNA-polymerases have larger active sites that can accommodate bulky DNA adducts allowing them to bypass these lesions during replication. One member, polymerase eta (pol eta), is specialized for the bypass of UV-induced thymidine-thymidine dimers, correctly inserting two adenines. Loss of pol eta function is the molecular basis for xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) variant where the accumulation of mutations results in a dramatic increase in UV-induced skin cancers. Less is known about the role of pol eta in the bypass of other DNA adducts. A commonly encountered DNA adduct is that caused by benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide (BPDE), the ultimate carcinogenic metabolite of the environmental chemical benzo[a]pyrene. Here, treatment of pol eta-deficient fibroblasts from humans and mice with BPDE resulted in a significant decrease in Hprt gene mutations. These studies in mammalian cells support a number of in vitro reports that purified pol eta has error-prone activity on plasmids with site-directed BPDE adducts. Sequencing the Hprt gene from this work shows that the majority of mutations are G>T transversions. These data suggest that pol eta has error-prone activity when bypassing BPDE-adducts. Understanding the basis of environmental carcinogen-derived mutations may enable prevention strategies to reduce such mutations with the intent to reduce the number of environmentally relevant cancers.

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