Mutagenic specificity of ultraviolet light

J Mol Biol. 1985 Mar 5;182(1):45-65. doi: 10.1016/0022-2836(85)90026-9.


Genetic and sequencing studies of ultraviolet light (u.v.)-induced mutations in the lacI gene of Escherichia coli show the following: u.v. stimulates many types of mutations. In lacI, base substitutions account for 60 to 65% of the observed mutations, small frameshifts 30 to 35%, and deletions of more than several base-pairs approximately 5%. A comparison of the mutational spectrum of u.v.-induced mutations with those of other SOS-dependent mutagens and with the mutations produced by inducing the SOS system in the absence of mutagenic treatment indicates that most u.v.-induced base substitutions are "targeted", resulting from premutational lesions across from the site of the mutations. Among base substitutions, both transitions and transversions occur, although the most favored mutational sites involve G X C----A X T transitions. G X C----A X T transitions are induced preferentially at sites of adjacent pyrimidines. In one case the conversion of a site from -A-C-A- to -T-C-A- results in a 15-fold increase in u.v.-induced C----T transitions. Frameshifts at certain sites are well-induced by u.v., and the largest hotspot in the I gene involves the loss of an (sequence in text) base pair from a (sequence in text) sequence. Of 25 frameshifts detected by DNA sequencing, 23 mutations at seven different sites result from the elimination of a single base-pair, and two mutations result from the elimination of two base-pairs. No additions were detected. The use of a lacI-Z fusion system, which allows direct selection of frameshifts of either sign, reveals that throughout the entire gene frameshifts that eliminate a single base-pair (-1) predominate by a factor of 20 or more over frameshifts that add a single base-pair (+1). In one case a two-base-pair elimination occurs frequently, resulting in the loss of a -C-T- sequence (on one strand), or a -T-C- sequence, from a -C-T-C-T-C-T-C- sequence. For both frameshifts and base substitutions, some aspect of the larger surrounding sequence beyond the nearest neighbors can influence mutation rates by as much as 50-fold, thus determining which sites are seen as hotspots. The bearing of these and other data on the detailed mechanism of mutagenesis is considered in the Discussion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 4-Nitroquinoline-1-oxide / pharmacology
  • Base Sequence
  • Codon
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Genes, Bacterial / drug effects
  • Genes, Bacterial / radiation effects
  • Lac Operon / drug effects
  • Lac Operon / radiation effects
  • Mutation*
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • Codon
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • 4-Nitroquinoline-1-oxide