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Biochimie. 1985 Mar-Apr;67(3-4):343-7.

The SOS system.


In the bacterium Escherichia coli DNA damaging treatments such as ultraviolet or ionizing radiation induce a set of functions called collectively the SOS response, reviewed here. The regulation of the SOS response involves a repressor, the LexA protein, and an inducer, the RecA protein. After DNA damage an effector molecule is produced--possibly single stranded DNA--which activates the RecA protein to a form capable of catalysing proteolytic cleavage of LexA. The repressors of certain temperate prophages are cleaved under the same conditions, resulting in lysogenic induction. SOS functions are involved in DNA repair and mutagenesis, in cell division inhibition, in recovery of normal physiological conditions after the DNA damage is repaired, and possibly in cell death when DNA damage is too extensive. The SOS response also includes several chromosomal genes of unknown function, a number of plasmid encoded genes (bacteriocins, mutagenesis), and lysogenic induction of certain prophages. DNA damaging treatments seem to induce DNA repair and mutagenic activities and proviral development in many species, including mammalian cells. In general, substances which are genotoxic to higher eukaryotes induce the SOS response in bacteria. This correlation is the basis of the numerous bacterial tests for genotoxicity and carcinogenicity.

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