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Mutat Res. 2011 Jun 3;711(1-2):123-33. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2010.12.010. Epub 2010 Dec 24.

Clustered DNA lesion repair in eukaryotes: relevance to mutagenesis and cell survival.

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Institut Curie, Bât. 110, Centre Universitaire, 91405 Orsay, France.


A clustered DNA lesion, also known as a multiply damaged site, is defined as ≥ 2 damages in the DNA within 1-2 helical turns. Only ionizing radiation and certain chemicals introduce DNA damage in the genome in this non-random way. What is now clear is that the lethality of a damaging agent is not just related to the types of DNA lesions introduced, but also to how the damage is distributed in the DNA. Clustered DNA lesions were first hypothesized to exist in the 1990s, and work has progressed where these complex lesions have been characterized and measured in irradiated as well as in non-irradiated cells. A clustered lesion can consist of single as well as double strand breaks, base damage and abasic sites, and the damages can be situated on the same strand or opposing strands. They include tandem lesions, double strand break (DSB) clusters and non-DSB clusters, and base excision repair as well as the DSB repair pathways can be required to remove these complex lesions. Due to the plethora of oxidative damage induced by ionizing radiation, and the repair proteins involved in their removal from the DNA, it has been necessary to study how repair systems handle these lesions using synthetic DNA damage. This review focuses on the repair process and mutagenic consequences of clustered lesions in yeast and mammalian cells. By examining the studies on synthetic clustered lesions, and the effects of low vs high LET radiation on mammalian cells or tissues, it is possible to extrapolate the potential biological relevance of these clustered lesions to the killing of tumor cells by radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and to the risk of cancer in non-tumor cells, and this will be discussed.

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