Dirty Transcripts from Clean DNA

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Science  02 Apr 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5411, pp. 62-63
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5411.62

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Introduction of an aberrant base into DNA usually results in the halting of transcription and activation of excision-repair enzymes that correct the defect. However, some modified bases in DNA, such as uracil, if unrepaired still allow transcription to proceed, resulting in an aberrant messenger RNA transcript and enough mutant protein to change the phenotype of the cell. In his Perspective, Bridges discusses this process, called transcriptional bypass, including the fact that Viswanathan et al. report in this issue that it occurs in nondividing E. coli bacteria in vivo.