Transcription coupled base excision repair in mammalian cells: So little is known and so much to uncover

Anirban Chakraborty, Nisha Tapryal, Azharul Islam, Sankar Mitra, Tapas Hazra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oxidized bases in the genome has been implicated in various human pathologies, including cancer, aging and neurological diseases. Their repair is initiated with excision by DNA glycosylases (DGs) in the base excision repair (BER) pathway. Among the five oxidized base-specific human DGs, OGG1 and NTH1 preferentially excise oxidized purines and pyrimidines, respectively, while NEILs remove both oxidized purines and pyrimidines. However, little is known about why cells possess multiple DGs with overlapping substrate specificities. Studies of the past decades revealed that some DGs are involved in repair of oxidized DNA base lesions in the actively transcribed regions. Preferential removal of lesions from the transcribed strands of active genes, called transcription-coupled repair (TCR), was discovered as a distinct sub-pathway of nucleotide excision repair; however, such repair of oxidized DNA bases had not been established until our recent demonstration of NEIL2’s role in TC-BER of the nuclear genome. We have shown that NEIL2 forms a distinct transcriptionally active, repair proficient complex. More importantly, we for the first time reconstituted TC-BER using purified components. These studies are important for characterizing critical requirement for the process. However, because NEIL2 cannot remove all types of oxidized bases, it is unlikely to be the only DNA glycosylase involved in TC-BER. Hence, we postulate TC-BER process to be universally involved in maintaining the functional integrity of active genes, especially in post-mitotic, non-growing cells. We further postulate that abnormal bases (e.g., uracil), and alkylated and other small DNA base adducts are also repaired via TC-BER. In this review, we have provided an overview of the various aspects of TC-BER in mammalian cells with the hope of generating significant interest of many researchers in the field. Further studies aimed at better understanding the mechanistic aspects of TC-BER could help elucidate the linkage of TC-BER deficiency to various human pathologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103204
JournalDNA Repair
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Base excision repair
  • DNA glycosylase
  • Human Nei like proteins (NEILs)
  • Oxidative DNA damage
  • Transcription coupled repair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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