The role of DNA polymerase eta in UV mutational spectra

DNA Repair (Amst). 2005 Feb 3;4(2):211-20. doi: 10.1016/j.dnarep.2004.09.006.


UV irradiation generates predominantly cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs) and (6-4) photoproducts in DNA. CPDs are thought to be responsible for most of the UV-induced mutations. Thymine-thymine CPDs, and probably also CPDs containing cytosine, are replicated in vivo in a largely accurate manner by a DNA polymerase eta (Pol eta) dependent process. Pol eta is encoded by the POLH (XPV) gene in humans. In order to clarify the specific role of Pol eta in UV mutagenesis, we have used an siRNA knockdown approach in combination with a supF shuttle vector which replicates in mammalian cells. This strategy provides an advantage over studying mutagenesis in cell lines derived from normal individuals and XP-V patients, since the genetic background of the cells is identical. Synthetic RNA duplexes were used to inhibit Pol eta expression in 293T cells. The reduction of Pol eta mRNA and protein was greater than 90%. The supF shuttle vector was irradiated with UVC and replicated in 293T cells in presence of anti-Pol eta siRNA. The supF mutant frequency was increased by up to 3.6-fold in the siRNA knockdown cells relative to control cells confirming that Pol eta plays an important role in mutation avoidance and that the pol eta knockdown was efficient. UV-induced supF mutants were sequenced from siRNA-treated cells and controls. Surprisingly, neither the type of mutations nor their distribution along the supF gene were substantially different between controls and siRNA knockdown cells and were predominantly C to T and CC to TT transitions at dipyrimidine sites. The data are compatible with two models. (i) Incorrect replication of cytosine-containing photoproducts by a polymerase other than Pol eta produces similar mutations as when Pol eta is present but at a higher frequency. (ii) Due to lack of Pol eta or low levels of remaining Pol eta, lesion replication is delayed allowing more time for cytosine deamination within CPDs to occur. We provide proof of principle that siRNA technology can be used to dissect the in vivo roles of lesion bypass DNA polymerases in DNA damage-induced mutagenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Pairing
  • Base Sequence
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytosine / chemistry
  • DNA Damage / radiation effects*
  • DNA Replication*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / genetics
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism*
  • Deamination
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Nucleic Acid Synthesis Inhibitors
  • Pyrimidine Dimers / genetics
  • Pyrimidine Dimers / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*
  • Xeroderma Pigmentosum / enzymology
  • Xeroderma Pigmentosum / genetics*


  • Nucleic Acid Synthesis Inhibitors
  • Pyrimidine Dimers
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Cytosine
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • Rad30 protein