Instability and decay of the primary structure of DNA

Nature. 1993 Apr 22;362(6422):709-15. doi: 10.1038/362709a0.


Although DNA is the carrier of genetic information, it has limited chemical stability. Hydrolysis, oxidation and nonenzymatic methylation of DNA occur at significant rates in vivo, and are counteracted by specific DNA repair processes. The spontaneous decay of DNA is likely to be a major factor in mutagenesis, carcinogenesis and ageing, and also sets limits for the recovery of DNA fragments from fossils.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Carcinogens / pharmacology
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Methylation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis
  • Nucleic Acid Denaturation
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Paleontology
  • Spores


  • Carcinogens
  • DNA