Oxidative lesions are removed from DNA primarily via the base excision repair (BER) pathway. BER is carried out through four enzymatic steps, but it is now clear that several other proteins modulate BER efficiency through protein-protein interactions. We and others identified several protein interactions for the core BER enzymes. Oxidative DNA damage is implicated in brain aging, neurodegeneration and neurological diseases. Damage can be created by normal cellular metabolism, which accumulates with age, or by acute cellular stress conditions which create bursts of oxidative damage. Brain cells have a particularly high basal level of metabolic activity and use distinct oxidative damage repair mechanisms to remove oxidative damage from DNA and dNTP pools. Accumulation of this damage in the background of a functional DNA repair response is associated with normal aging, but defective repair in brain cells can contribute to neurological dysfunction. The requirement for BER in proliferating cells also correlates with high levels of many of the BER enzymes in neurogenesis after DNA damage. However, the pathway is also necessary for normal neural maintenance as larger infarct volumes after ischemic stroke are seen in some glycosylase deficient animals. Further, the requirement for DNA polymerase in post-mitotic BER is potentially more important than in proliferating cells due to reduced levels of replicative polymerases. The BER response may have particular relevance for the onset and progression of many neurodegenerative diseases associated with an increase in oxidative stress including Alzheimer's, which we are pursuing. Genetic and environmental factors likely influence DNA repair capacity. In order to gain more insight into the genetic and environmental contribution to the molecular basis of DNA repair, we have performed a human twin study, where we focused on the consequences of some of the most abundant types of DNA damage (single-strand breaks), and some of the most hazardous lesions (DNA double-strand breaks). DNA damage signaling response (Gamma-H2AX signaling), relative amount of endogenous damage, and DNA-strand break repair capacities were studied in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 198 twins (94 monozygotic and 104 dizygotic). We did not detect genetic effects on the DNA-strand break variables in our study. In another study, we focused on potential age-associated changes in DNA damage response and the capacities of repairing DNA single-strand breaks (SSBs) and double-strand breaks (DSBs) in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Of these lesions, DSBs are the least frequent but the most dangerous for cells. We have measured the level of endogenous SSBs, SSB repair capacity, -H2AX response, and DSB repair capacity in a study population consisting of 216 individuals from a population-based sample of twins aged 40-77 years. Age in this range did not seem to have any effect on the SSB parameters. However, -H2AX response and DSB repair capacity decreased with increasing age, although the associations did not reach statistical significance after adjustment for batch effect across multiple experiments. No gender differences were observed for any of the parameters analyzed. Our findings suggest that in PBMCs, the repair of SSBs is maintained until old age, whereas the response to and the repair of DSBs decreases.

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National Institute on Aging (NIA)
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