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Nature. 2002 Sep 12;419(6903):178-82.

AlkB-mediated oxidative demethylation reverses DNA damage in Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Centre for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience, and Institute of Medical Microbiology, University of Oslo, National Hospital, 0027 Oslo, Norway.


The bacterial AlkB protein is known to be involved in cellular recovery from alkylation damage; however, the function of this protein remains unknown. AlkB homologues have been identified in several organisms, including humans, and a recent sequence alignment study has suggested that these proteins may belong to a superfamily of 2-oxoglutarate-dependent and iron-dependent oxygenases (2OG-Fe(ii)-oxygenases). Here we show that AlkB from Escherichia coli is indeed a 2-oxoglutarate-dependent and iron-dependent DNA repair enzyme that releases replication blocks in alkylated DNA by a mechanism involving oxidative demethylation of 1-methyladenine residues. This mechanism represents a new pathway for DNA repair and the third type of DNA damage reversal mechanism so far discovered.

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