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Cells fine-tune their DNA repair, selecting some regions of the genome in preference to others. In the paradigm case, excision of UV-induced pyrimidine dimers in mammalian cells, repair is concentrated in transcribed genes, especially in the transcribed strand. This is due both to chromatin structure being looser in transcribing domains, allowing more rapid repair, and to repair enzymes being coupled to RNA polymerases stalled at damage sites; possibly other factors are also involved. Some repair-defective diseases may involve repair-transcription coupling: three candidate genes have been suggested. However, preferential excision of pyrimidine dimers is not uniformly linked to transcription. In mammals it varies with species, and with cell differentiation. In Drosophila embryo cells it is absent, and in yeast, the determining factor is nucleosome stability rather than transcription. Repair of other damage departs further from the paradigm, even in some UV-mimetic lesions. No selectivity is known for repair of the very frequent minor forms of base damage. And the most interesting consequence of selective repair, selective mutagenesis, normally occurs for UV-induced, but not for spontaneous mutations. The temptation to extrapolate from mammalian UV repair should be resisted.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





209 - 216


Animals, Cell-Free System, DNA Repair, DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases, Genes, Nucleosomes, Transcription, Genetic, Xeroderma Pigmentosum