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Bifunctional alkylating agents and other drugs which produce DNA interstrand cross-links (ICLs) are among the most effective antitumor agents in clinical use. In contrast to agents which produce bulky adducts on only one strand of the DNA, the cellular mechanisms which act to eliminate DNA ICLs are still poorly understood, although nucleotide excision repair is known to play a crucial role in an early repair step. Using haploid Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains disrupted for genes central to the recombination, nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ), and mutagenesis pathways, all these activities were found to be involved in the repair of nitrogen mustard (mechlorethamine)- and cisplatin-induced DNA ICLs, but the particular pathway employed is cell cycle dependent. Examination of whole chromosomes from treated cells using contour-clamped homogenous electric field electrophoresis revealed the intermediate in the repair of ICLs in dividing cells, which are mostly in S phase, to be double-strand breaks (DSBs). The origin of these breaks is not clear since they were still efficiently induced in nucleotide excision and base excision repair-deficient, mismatch repair-defective, rad27 and mre11 disruptant strains. In replicating cells, RAD52-dependent recombination and NHEJ both act to repair the DSBs. In contrast, few DSBs were observed in quiescent cells, and recombination therefore seems dispensable for repair. The activity of the Rev3 protein (DNA polymerase zeta) is apparently more important for the processing of intermediates in stationary-phase cells, since rev3 disruptants were more sensitive in this phase than in the exponential growth phase.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Cell Biol

Publication Date





3425 - 3433


Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating, Cisplatin, Cross-Linking Reagents, DNA Damage, DNA Repair, DNA-Binding Proteins, DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase, Endodeoxyribonucleases, Exodeoxyribonucleases, Flap Endonucleases, Fungal Proteins, Haploidy, Mechlorethamine, Mutation, Rad52 DNA Repair and Recombination Protein, Recombination, Genetic, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins