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Review Article
Nature 362, 709 - 715 (22 April 1993); doi:10.1038/362709a0

Instability and decay of the primary structure of DNA

Tomas Lindahl

Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Clare Hall Laboratories, South Mimms. Hertfordshire EN6 3LD. UK.

Although DNA is the carrier of genetic information, it has limited chemical stability. Hydrolysis, oxidation and nonenzymatic methylation of DNA occur at significant ratesin 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.

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