Future Directions

In addition to the three critical DNA repair pathways already discussed (BER, NER, and MMR), there are two additional types of DNA repair: double-strand break repair and recombinational repair. These are both complex phenomena, and scientists' understanding of them is still at an early stage. Also, many questions about BER, NER, and MMR still await answers. For example, since DNA damage that escapes repair leads to deleterious alterations of our DNA, could we prevent mutation by increasing the levels of DNA repair proteins? Could we live longer and healthier lives with more or better DNA repair? How are DNA repair pathways regulated by the cell? Is there such a thing as too much DNA repair? If repairs always took place whenever DNA damage occurred, would there be no evolution? Exactly how do the proteins and enzymes involved in DNA repair accomplish their jobs? These and many other exciting lines of inquiry are in store for future investigators. see also Apoptosis; Cancer; Carcinogens; DNA Polymerases; Fragile X Syndrome; Mutagen; Mutation; Nucleases; Nucleotide; RNA Polymerases; Triplet Repeat Disease.

Samuel E. Bennett and Dale Mosbaugh


Friedberg, E. C., G. C. Walker, and W. Siede. DNA Repair and Mutagenesis. Washington, DC: ASM Press, 1995.

Hanawalt, P. C. "DNA Repair: The Basis for Cockayne Syndrome." Nature 405, no. 6785 (2000): 415-416.

Kolodner, R. D. "Guarding Against Mutation." Nature 407, no. 6805 (2000): 687-689.

Marx, J. "DNA Repair Comes into Its Own." Science 266, no. 5186 (1994): 728-730.

Rennie, J. "Kissing Cousins: A DNA Repair System Stops Species from Interbreeding." Scientific American 262, no. 2 (1990): 22-23.

Wood, R. D., et al. "Human DNA Repair Genes." Science 291 (2001): 1284-1289.

DNA Structure and Function, History

DNA was discovered in the nineteenth century, but its significance as the physical basis of inheritance was not understood until midway through the twentieth. The realization that it was the molecule of heredity led to intensive efforts to determine its three-dimensional structure, and to understand how it stores and transmits genetic information. The discovery of the struc ture of DNA, and the elucidation of its function, ranks as one of the greatest achievements of science.

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