Base excision repair (BER) is an essential cellular defence mechanism against DNA damage, but it is poorly understood in plants. We used an assay that monitors repair of damaged bases and abasic (apurinic/apyrimidinic, AP) sites in Arabidopsis to characterize post-excision events during plant BER. We found that Apurinic endonuclease-redox protein (ARP) is the major AP endonuclease activity in Arabidopsis cell extracts, and is required for AP incision during uracil BER in vitro. Mutant plants that are deficient in ARP grow normally but are hypersensitive to 5-fluorouracil, a compound that favours mis-incorporation of uracil into DNA. We also found that, after AP incision, the choice between single-nucleotide or long-patch DNA synthesis (SN- or LP-BER) is influenced by the 5' end of the repair gap. When the 5' end is blocked and not amenable to β-elimination, the SN sub-pathway is abrogated, and repair is accomplished through LP-BER only. Finally, we provide evidence that Arabidopsis DNA ligase I (LIG1) is required for both SN- and LP-BER. lig1 RNAi-silenced lines show very reduced uracil BER, and anti-LIG1 antibody abolishes repair in wild-type cell extracts. In contrast, knockout lig4(-/-) mutants exhibit normal BER and nick ligation levels. Our results suggest that a branched BER pathway completed by a member of the DNA ligase I family may be an ancient feature in eukaryotic species.
© 2011 The Authors. The Plant Journal © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.