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Biochem Cell Biol. 2005 Jun;83(3):270-85.

An epigenetic code for DNA damage repair pathways?

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Institute of Veterinary Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Zurich, Switzerland.


Exposure of living cells to intracellular or external mutagens results in DNA damage. Accumulation of DNA damage can lead to serious consequences because of the deleterious mutation rate resulting in genomic instability, cellular senescence, and cell death. To counteract genotoxic stress, cells have developed several strategies to detect defects in DNA structure. The eukaryotic genomic DNA is packaged through histone and nonhistone proteins into a highly condensed structure termed chromatin. Therefore the cellular enzymatic machineries responsible for DNA replication, recombination, and repair must circumvent this natural barrier in order to gain access to the DNA. Several studies have demonstrated that histone/chromatin modifications such as acetylation, methylation, and phosphorylation play crucial roles in DNA repair processes. This review will summarize the recent data that suggest a regulatory role of the epigenetic code in DNA repair processes. We will mainly focus on different covalent reversible modifications of histones as an initial step in early response to DNA damage and subsequent DNA repair. Special focus on a potential epigenetic histone code for these processes will be given in the last section. We also discuss new technologies and strategies to elucidate the putative epigenetic code for each of the DNA repair processes discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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