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Mol Cell Biol. 1997 Dec;17(12):6822-30.

Initiation of DNA interstrand cross-link repair in humans: the nucleotide excision repair system makes dual incisions 5' to the cross-linked base and removes a 22- to 28-nucleotide-long damage-free strand.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill 27599, USA.


Most DNA repair mechanisms rely on the redundant information inherent to the duplex to remove damaged nucleotides and replace them with normal ones, using the complementary strand as a template. Interstrand cross-links pose a unique challenge to the DNA repair machinery because both strands are damaged. To study the repair of interstrand cross-links by mammalian cells, we tested the activities of cell extracts of wild-type or excision repair-defective rodent cell lines and of purified human excision nuclease on a duplex with a site-specific cross-link. We found that in contrast to monoadducts, which are removed by dual incisions bracketing the lesion, the cross-link causes dual incisions, both 5' to the cross-link in one of the two strands. The net result is the generation of a 22- to 28-nucleotide-long gap immediately 5' to the cross-link. This gap may act as a recombinogenic signal to initiate cross-link removal.

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