The nonbulky 5′,8-cyclopurine DNA lesions (cP) and the bulky, benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide-derived stereoisomeric cis- and trans-N2-guanine adducts (BPDE-dG) are good substrates of the human nucleotide excision repair (NER) mechanism. These DNA lesions were embedded at the In or Out rotational settings near the dyad axis in nucleosome core particles reconstituted either with native histones extracted from HeLa cells (HeLa-NCP) or with recombinant histones (Rec-NCP). The cP lesions are completely resistant to NER in human HeLa cell extracts. The BPDE-dG adducts are also NER-resistant in Rec-NCPs but are good substrates of NER in HeLa-NCPs. The four BPDE-dG adduct samples are excised with different efficiencies in free DNA, but in HeLa-NCPs, the efficiencies are reduced by a common factor of 2.2 ± 0.2 relative to the NER efficiencies in free DNA. The NER response of the BPDE-dG adducts in HeLa-NCPs is not directly correlated with the observed differences in the thermodynamic destabilization of HeLa-NCPs, the Förster resonance energy transfer values, or hydroxyl radical footprint patterns and is weakly dependent on the rotational settings. These and other observations suggest that NER is initiated by the binding of the DNA damage-sensing NER factor XPC-RAD23B to a transiently opened BPDE-modified DNA sequence that corresponds to the known footprint of XPC-DNA-RAD23B complexes (≥30 bp). These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that post-translational modifications and the dimensions and properties of the DNA lesions are the major factors that have an impact on the dynamics and initiation of NER in nucleosomes.
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