Chromosomal DNA is exposed to continuous damage and repair. Cells contain a number of proteins and specific DNA repair systems that help maintain its correct structure. The SOS response was the first DNA repair system described in Escherichia coli induced upon treatment of bacteria with DNA damaging agents arrest DNA replication and cell division. Induction of the SOS response involves more than forty independent SOS genes, most of which encode proteins engaged in protection, repair, replication, mutagenesis and metabolism of DNA. Under normal growth conditions the SOS genes are expressed at a basal level, which increases distinctly upon induction of the SOS response. The SOS-response has been found in many bacterial species (e.g., Salmonella typhimurium, Caulobacter crescentus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis), but not in eukaryotic cells. However, species from all kingdoms contain some SOS-like proteins taking part in DNA repair that exhibit amino acid homology and enzymatic activities related to those found in E. coli. but are not organized in an SOS system. This paper presents a brief up-to-date review describing the discovery of the SOS system, the physiology of SOS induction, methods for its determination, and the role of some SOS-induced genes.
Keywords: DNA mutations; DNA repair; SOS response; error-prone repair; mutagenic DNA polymerases.