Oxidatively generated base modifications in DNA: Not only carcinogenic risk factor but also regulatory mark?

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The generation of DNA modifications in cells is in most cases accidental and associated with detrimental consequences such as increased mutation rates and an elevated risk of malignant transformation. Accordingly, repair enzymes involved in the removal of the modifications have primarily a protective function. Among the well-established exceptions of this rule are 5-methylcytosine and uracil, which are generated in DNA enzymatically under controlled conditions and fulfill important regulatory functions in DNA as epigenetic marks and in antibody diversification, respectively. More recently, considerable evidence has been obtained that also 8-oxo-7,8-dihydroguanine (8-oxoG), a frequent pro-mutagenic DNA modification generated by endogenous or exogenous reactive oxygen species (ROS), has distinct roles in the regulation of both transcription and signal transduction. Thus, the activation of transcription by the estrogen receptor, NF-κB, MYC and other transcription factors was shown to depend on the presence of 8-oxoG in the promoter regions and its recognition by the DNA repair glycosylase OGG1. The lysine-specific histone demethylase LSD1, which produces H2O2 as a by-product, was indentified as a local generator of 8-oxoG in some of these cases. In addition, a complex of OGG1 with the excised free substrate base was demonstrated to act as a guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) for small GTPases such as Ras, Rac and Rho, thus stimulating signal transduction. The various findings and intriguing novel mechanisms suggested will be described and compared in this review.

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