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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2005 Feb 25;1707(1):1-23.

Light-driven enzymatic catalysis of DNA repair: a review of recent biophysical studies on photolyase.

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Institute of Experimental Physics, Free University Berlin, Arnimallee 14, 14195 Berlin, Germany.


More than 50 years ago, initial experiments on enzymatic photorepair of ultraviolet (UV)-damaged DNA were reported [Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 35 (1949) 73]. Soon after this discovery, it was recognized that one enzyme, photolyase, is able to repair UV-induced DNA lesions by effectively reversing their formation using blue light. The enzymatic process named DNA photoreactivation depends on a non-covalently bound cofactor, flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD). Flavins are ubiquitous redox-active catalysts in one- and two-electron transfer reactions of numerous biological processes. However, in the case of photolyase, not only the ground-state redox properties of the FAD cofactor are exploited but also, and perhaps more importantly, its excited-state properties. In the catalytically active, fully reduced redox form, the FAD absorbs in the blue and near-UV ranges of visible light. Although there is no direct experimental evidence, it appears generally accepted that starting from the excited singlet state, the chromophore initiates a reductive cleavage of the two major DNA photodamages, cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers and (6-4) photoproducts, by short-distance electron transfer to the DNA lesion. Back electron transfer from the repaired DNA segment is believed to eventually restore the initial redox states of the cofactor and the DNA nucleobases, resulting in an overall reaction with net-zero exchanged electrons. Thus, the entire process represents a true catalytic cycle. Many biochemical and biophysical studies have been carried out to unravel the fundamentals of this unique mode of action. The work has culminated in the elucidation of the three-dimensional structure of the enzyme in 1995 that revealed remarkable details, such as the FAD-cofactor arrangement in an unusual U-shaped configuration. With the crystal structure of the enzyme at hand, research on photolyases did not come to an end but, for good reason, intensified: the geometrical structure of the enzyme alone is not sufficient to fully understand the enzyme's action on UV-damaged DNA. Much effort has therefore been invested to learn more about, for example, the geometry of the enzyme-substrate complex, and the mechanism and pathways of intra-enzyme and enzyme <-->DNA electron transfer. Many of the key results from biochemical and molecular biology characterizations of the enzyme or the enzyme-substrate complex have been summarized in a number of reviews. Complementary to these articles, this review focuses on recent biophysical studies of photoreactivation comprising work performed from the early 1990s until the present.

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