A rapid, comprehensive system for assaying DNA repair activity and cytotoxic effects of DNA-damaging reagents

Nat Protoc. 2015 Jan;10(1):12-24. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2014.194. Epub 2014 Dec 4.


DNA repair systems protect cells from genomic instability and carcinogenesis. Therefore, assays for measuring DNA repair activity are valuable, not only for clinical diagnoses of DNA repair deficiency disorders but also for basic research and anticancer drug development. Two commonly used assays are UDS (unscheduled DNA synthesis, requiring a precise measurement of an extremely small amount of repair DNA synthesis) and RRS (recovery of RNA synthesis after DNA damage). Both UDS and RRS are major endpoints for assessing the activity of nucleotide excision repair (NER), the most versatile DNA repair process. Conventional UDS and RRS assays are laborious and time-consuming, as they measure the incorporation of radiolabeled nucleosides associated with NER. Here we describe a comprehensive protocol for monitoring nonradioactive UDS and RRS by studying the incorporation of alkyne-conjugated nucleoside analogs followed by a fluorescent azide-coupling click-chemistry reaction. The system is also suitable for quick measurement of cell sensitivity to DNA-damaging reagents and for lentivirus-based complementation assays, which can be used to systematically determine the pathogenic genes associated with DNA repair deficiency disorders. A typical UDS or RRS assay using primary fibroblasts, including a virus complementation test, takes 1 week to complete.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkynes / chemistry*
  • Azides / chemistry*
  • Biological Assay / methods*
  • Click Chemistry / methods*
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • DNA Repair / physiology*
  • Fluorescence
  • Genetic Complementation Test / methods
  • Humans
  • Lentivirus
  • Nucleosides / chemistry*
  • RNA / biosynthesis
  • Scintillation Counting
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Alkynes
  • Azides
  • Nucleosides
  • RNA
  • DNA