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Mutat Res. 2002 Dec 29;510(1-2):55-70.

New structural and mechanistic insight into the A-rule and the instructional and non-instructional behavior of DNA photoproducts and other lesions.

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Department of Chemistry, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA.


The A-rule in mutagenesis was originally proposed to explain the preponderance of X-->T mutations observed for abasic sites and UV damaged sites. It was deduced that when a polymerase was faced with a non-instructional lesion, typified by an abasic site, it would preferentially incorporate an A. In the absence of any other compelling explanation, any lesion causing an X-->T mutation has often been classified as non-instructional to account for its apparent lack of instructional ability. The A-rule and the classification of lesions as non-instructional were formulated before the active sites of any polymerases or the mechanism by which they synthesized DNA were known. Since then, much structural and kinetic data on DNA polymerases has emerged to suggest mechanistic explanations for the A-rule and the instructive and non-instructive behavior of lesions such as cis-syn dimers. Polymerases involved in the replication of undamaged DNA have highly constrained active sites that evolved to only accommodate the templating base and the complementary nucleotide and as a result are relatively intolerant of modifications that alter the size and shape of the nascent base pair. On the other hand, DNA damage bypass polymerases have much more open and less constrained active sites, which are much more tolerant of modifications. An otherwise instructional lesion would become non-instructional if it were unable to fit into the active site, and thereby behave transiently like an abasic site, leading to the insertion of whichever nucleotide is favored by the polymerase, generally an A. In this review, what is known about the active sites and mechanisms of replicative and DNA damage bypass polymerases will be discussed with regard to the A-rule and non-instructive behavior of lesions, typified by dipyrimidine photoproducts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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