Computational investigations on target-site searching and recognition mechanisms by thymine DNA glycosylase during DNA repair process

Acta Biochim Biophys Sin (Shanghai). 2022 May 25;54(6):796-806. doi: 10.3724/abbs.2022050.


DNA glycosylase, as one member of DNA repair machineries, plays an essential role in correcting mismatched/damaged DNA nucleotides by cleaving the N-glycosidic bond between the sugar and target nucleobase through the base excision repair (BER) pathways. Efficient corrections of these DNA lesions are critical for maintaining genome integrity and preventing premature aging and cancers. The target-site searching/recognition mechanisms and the subsequent conformational dynamics of DNA glycosylase, however, remain challenging to be characterized using experimental techniques. In this review, we summarize our recent studies of sequential structural changes of thymine DNA glycosylase (TDG) during the DNA repair process, achieved mostly by molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Computational simulations allow us to reveal atomic-level structural dynamics of TDG as it approaches the target-site, and pinpoint the key structural elements responsible for regulating the translocation of TDG along DNA. Subsequently, upon locating the lesions, TDG adopts a base-flipping mechanism to extrude the mispaired nucleobase into the enzyme active-site. The constructed kinetic network model elucidates six metastable states during the base-extrusion process and suggests an active role of TDG in flipping the intrahelical nucleobase. Finally, the molecular mechanism of product release dynamics after catalysis is also summarized. Taken together, we highlight to what extent the computational simulations advance our knowledge and understanding of the molecular mechanism underlying the conformational dynamics of TDG, as well as the limitations of current theoretical work.

Keywords: DNA glycosylase; DNA repair; Markov state model; molecular dynamics simulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Repair
  • Nucleotides
  • Sugars
  • Thymine DNA Glycosylase* / metabolism


  • Nucleotides
  • Sugars
  • DNA
  • Thymine DNA Glycosylase