Send to

Choose Destination
Elife. 2013 Oct 29;2:e01222. doi: 10.7554/eLife.01222.

Engineered proteins detect spontaneous DNA breakage in human and bacterial cells.

Author information

Department of Molecular and Human Genetics , Baylor College of Medicine , Houston , United States ; Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology , Baylor College of Medicine , Houston , United States ; Dan L Duncan Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine , Houston , United States ; Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology , Baylor College of Medicine , Houston , United States.


Spontaneous DNA breaks instigate genomic changes that fuel cancer and evolution, yet direct quantification of double-strand breaks (DSBs) has been limited. Predominant sources of spontaneous DSBs remain elusive. We report synthetic technology for quantifying DSBs using fluorescent-protein fusions of double-strand DNA end-binding protein, Gam of bacteriophage Mu. In Escherichia coli GamGFP forms foci at chromosomal DSBs and pinpoints their subgenomic locations. Spontaneous DSBs occur mostly one per cell, and correspond with generations, supporting replicative models for spontaneous breakage, and providing the first true breakage rates. In mammalian cells GamGFP-labels laser-induced DSBs antagonized by end-binding protein Ku; co-localizes incompletely with DSB marker 53BP1 suggesting superior DSB-specificity; blocks resection; and demonstrates DNA breakage via APOBEC3A cytosine deaminase. We demonstrate directly that some spontaneous DSBs occur outside of S phase. The data illuminate spontaneous DNA breakage in E. coli and human cells and illustrate the versatility of fluorescent-Gam for interrogation of DSBs in living cells. DOI:


DNA double-strand breaks; E. coli; GFP; Human; Mouse; endogenous DNA damage; fluorescent-protein fusions; spontaneous DNA breaks; synthetic biology

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Publication types, MeSH terms, Substances, Grant support

Publication types

MeSH terms


Grant support

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center