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DNA Repair (Amst). 2005 Dec 8;4(12):1463-74. Epub 2005 Oct 5.

Discrimination and versatility in mismatch repair.

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Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, 97331-7301, USA.


Evolutionarily-conserved mismatch-repair (MMR) systems correct all or almost all base-mismatch errors from DNA replication via excision-resynthesis pathways, and respond to many different DNA lesions. Consideration of DNA polymerase error rates and possible consequences of excess gratuitous excision of perfectly paired (homoduplex) DNA in vivo suggests that MMR needs to discriminate against homoduplex DNA by three to six orders of magnitude. However, numerous binding studies using MMR base-mispair-recognition proteins, bacterial MutS or eukaryotic MSH2.MSH6 (MutSalpha), have typically shown discrimination factors between mismatched and homoduplex DNA to be 5-30, depending on the binding conditions, the particular mismatches, and the DNA-sequence contexts. Thus, downstream post-binding steps must increase MMR discrimination without interfering with the versatility needed to recognize a large variety of base-mismatches and lesions. We use a complex but highly MMR-active model system, human nuclear extracts mixed with plasmid substrates containing specific mismatches and defined nicks 0.15 kbp away, to measure the earliest quantifiable committed step in mismatch correction, initiation of mismatch-provoked 3'-5' excision at the nicks. We compared these results to binding of purified MutSalpha to synthetic oligoduplexes containing the same mismatches in the same sequence contexts, under conditions very similar to those prevailing in the nuclear extracts. Discrimination against homoduplex DNA, only two-to five-fold in the binding studies, increased to 60- to 230-fold or more for excision initiation, depending on the particular mismatches. Remarkably, the mismatch-preference order for excision initiation was substantially altered from the order for hMutSalpha binding. This suggests that post-binding steps not only strongly discriminate against homoduplex DNA, but do so by mechanisms not tightly constrained by initial binding preferences. Pairs of homoduplexes (40, 50, and 70 bp) prepared from synthetic oligomers or cut out of plasmids showed virtually identical hMutSalpha binding affinities, suggesting that high hMutSalpha binding to homoduplex DNA is not the result of misincorporations or lesions introduced during chemical synthesis. Intrinsic affinities of MutS homologs for perfectly paired DNA may help these proteins efficiently position themselves to carry out subsequent mismatch-specific steps in MMR pathways.

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