Photolyase: Dynamics and electron-transfer mechanisms of DNA repair

Arch Biochem Biophys. 2017 Oct 15;632:158-174. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2017 Aug 9.


Photolyase, a flavoenzyme containing flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) molecule as a catalytic cofactor, repairs UV-induced DNA damage of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer (CPD) and pyrimidine-pyrimidone (6-4) photoproduct using blue light. The FAD cofactor, conserved in the whole protein superfamily of photolyase/cryptochromes, adopts a unique folded configuration at the active site that plays a critical functional role in DNA repair. Here, we review our comprehensive characterization of the dynamics of flavin cofactor and its repair photocycles by different classes of photolyases on the most fundamental level. Using femtosecond spectroscopy and molecular biology, significant advances have recently been made to map out the entire dynamical evolution and determine actual timescales of all the catalytic processes in photolyases. The repair of CPD reveals seven electron-transfer (ET) reactions among ten elementary steps by a cyclic ET radical mechanism through bifurcating ET pathways, a direct tunneling route mediated by the intervening adenine and a two-step hopping path bridged by the intermediate adenine from the cofactor to damaged DNA, through the conserved folded flavin at the active site. The unified, bifurcated ET mechanism elucidates the molecular origin of various repair quantum yields of different photolyases from three life kingdoms. For 6-4 photoproduct repair, a similar cyclic ET mechanism operates and a new cyclic proton transfer with a conserved histidine residue at the active site of (6-4) photolyases is revealed.

Keywords: DNA repair; Electron hopping; Electron tunneling; Flavoprotein photolyase; Intraprotein electron transfer; Photocycle; Ultrafast enzyme dynamics.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Catalytic Domain
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA Repair*
  • Deoxyribodipyrimidine Photo-Lyase* / chemistry
  • Deoxyribodipyrimidine Photo-Lyase* / metabolism
  • Electron Transport
  • Flavin-Adenine Dinucleotide / chemistry
  • Flavin-Adenine Dinucleotide / metabolism
  • Flavoproteins* / chemistry
  • Flavoproteins* / metabolism
  • Protein Folding*
  • Pyrimidine Dimers* / chemistry
  • Pyrimidine Dimers* / metabolism
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Flavoproteins
  • Pyrimidine Dimers
  • Flavin-Adenine Dinucleotide
  • Deoxyribodipyrimidine Photo-Lyase