Variable impact of conformationally distinct DNA lesions on nucleosome structure and dynamics: Implications for nucleotide excision repair

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The packaging of DNA in nucleosomes presents a barrier for biological transactions including replication, transcription and repair. However, despite years of research, how the DNA is freed from the histone proteins and thereby allows the molecular machines to access the DNA remains poorly understood. We are interested in global genomic nucleotide excision repair (GG-NER). It is established that the histones are obstacles to this process, and DNA lesions are repaired less efficiently in nucleosomes than in free DNA. In the present study, we utilized molecular dynamics simulations to elucidate the nature of the distortions and dynamics imposed in the nucleosome by a set of three structually different lesions that vary in GG-NER efficiencies in free DNA, and in nucleosomes [Shafirovich, Geacintov, et. al, 2019]. Two of these are bulky lesions derived from metabolic activation of the environmental carcinogen benzo[a]pyrene, the 10R (+)-cis-anti-B[a]P-N2-dG and the stereoisomeric 10S (+)-trans-anti-B[a]P-N2-dG, which respectively adopt base-displaced/intercalated and minor groove-aligned conformations in DNA. The third is a non-bulky lesion, the 5′R-8-cyclo-2′-deoxyguanosine cross-link, produced by reactive oxygen and nitrogen species; cyclopurine lesions are highly mutagenic. These adducts are placed near the dyad axis, and rotationally with the lesion-containing strand facing towards or away from the histones. While each lesion has distinct conformational characteristics that are retained in the nucleosome, a spectrum of structural and dynamic disturbances, from slight to substantial, are displayed that depend on the lesion's structure and position in the nucleosome. We hypothesize that these intrinsic structural and dynamic distinctions provide different signals to initiate the cascade of chromatin-opening processes, including acetylation and other post translational modifications, remodeling by ATP-dependent complexes and spontaneous unwrapping that regulate the rate of access to the lesion; this may translate ultimately into varying GG-NER efficiencies, including repair resistance when signals for access are too weak.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102768
JournalDNA Repair
StatePublished - Mar 2020


  • 5’R-8-cyclo-2’-deoxyguanosine cross-link
  • Benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide-derived DNA adducts
  • DNA damage
  • Molecular dynamics
  • Nucleosome
  • Nucleotide excision repair
  • Rotational and translational setting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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