Targeting and processing of site-specific DNA interstrand crosslinks

Environ Mol Mutagen. 2010 Jul;51(6):527-39. doi: 10.1002/em.20557.


DNA interstrand crosslinks (ICLs) are among the most cytotoxic types of DNA damage, and thus ICL-inducing agents such as cyclophosphamide, melphalan, cisplatin, psoralen, and mitomycin C have been used clinically as anticancer drugs for decades. ICLs can also be formed endogenously as a consequence of cellular metabolic processes. ICL-inducing agents continue to be among the most effective chemotherapeutic treatments for many cancers; however, treatment with these agents can lead to secondary malignancies, in part due to mutagenic processing of the DNA lesions. The mechanisms of ICL repair have been characterized more thoroughly in bacteria and yeast than in mammalian cells. Thus, a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of ICL processing offers the potential to improve the efficacy of these drugs in cancer therapy. In mammalian cells, it is thought that ICLs are repaired by the coordination of proteins from several pathways, including nucleotide excision repair (NER), base excision repair (BER), mismatch repair (MMR), homologous recombination (HR), translesion synthesis (TLS), and proteins involved in Fanconi anemia (FA). In this review, we focus on the potential functions of NER, MMR, and HR proteins in the repair of and response to ICLs in human cells and in mice. We will also discuss a unique approach, using psoralen covalently linked to triplex-forming oligonucleotides to direct ICLs to specific sites in the mammalian genome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cross-Linking Reagents / pharmacology*
  • DNA Mismatch Repair / drug effects
  • DNA Repair*
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Recombination, Genetic / drug effects


  • Cross-Linking Reagents