Cyclobutane-Type Pyrimidine Dimers in Polynucleotides

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Science  22 Jul 1966:
Vol. 153, Issue 3734, pp. 379-386
DOI: 10.1126/science.153.3734.379


The formation of cyclobutane-type dimers between adjacent pyrimidine residues in model polynucleotides or DNA may be represented by the general scheme

See pdf 379.pdf

Whereas the formation of all other known photoproducts follows the irreversible path

See pdf 379.pdf

Thus dimers are distinguished from other photoproducts by the fact that they can be monomerized, as well as formed, by ultraviolet irradiation. At large incident fluxes of photons the steady-state value of dimers depends on wavelength and pH, as well as on other characteristics of the surrounding medium. The number of dimers in an irradiated polynucleotide may be decreased by purely photochemical means, whereas this is not true for most other photoproducts, for which continued irradiation, irrespective of wavelength, always results in the formation of more photoproduct (37). The wavelength dependence of the steady-state for dimers is also reflected in the biological activity of irradiated transforming DNA. This experiment and the fact that photoreactivating enzyme plus visible light monomerizes dimers (and has not been demonstrated to have any effect on other photoproducts) are the strongest lines of experimental evidence that pyrimidine dimers of the cyclobutane type are biologically important lesions and can account for a large fraction of the effects of ultraviolet light on DNA in solution. Insofar as DNA is one of the more important biological structures, such dimers, when formed, account for a large part of the effects of ultraviolet radiation on biological systems.