Deinococcus radiodurans is distinguished by its extraordinary capacity to survive high levels of ionizing radiation, and the DNA double-strand breaks that result from exposure to this type of radiation.
There are radiation-resistant bacteria in several phyla, including members of the Archaea.
Radiation resistance seems to be mediated by passive and active (enzymatic) mechanisms.
Passive mechanisms include the presence of multiple genome copies, a highly condensed nucleoid organization that prevents diffusion of DNA fragments generated during irradiation, and an accumulation of Mn(II) ions that might prevent the generation of reactive oxygen species.
Enzymatic mechanisms of radiation resistance include conventional DNA-repair processes as well as novel functions.
Mechanisms for limiting the extent of DNA degradation post-irradiation seem to facilitate genome preservation and enhance radiation resistance.
There are several enzymatic pathways for the repair of double-strand breaks, including RecA-dependent and RecA-independent processes.
Relatively little is known about the biochemical basis of the capacity of Deinococcus radiodurans to endure the genetic insult that results from exposure to ionizing radiation and can include hundreds of DNA double-strand breaks. However, recent reports indicate that this species compensates for extensive DNA damage through adaptations that allow cells to avoid the potentially detrimental effects of DNA strand breaks. It seems that D. radiodurans uses mechanisms that limit DNA degradation and that restrict the diffusion of DNA fragments that are produced following irradiation, to preserve genetic integrity. These mechanisms also increase the efficiency of the DNA-repair proteins.
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Work on genome repair in Deinococcus radiodurans in the Battista and Cox laboratories is supported a grant from the National Institutes of Health. The authors thank F.A. Rainey for producing the phylogenetic tree in Figure 2. We also thank J. Haber for helpful discussions.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
- IONIZING RADIATION
Any electromagnetic or particulate radiation powerful enough to strip electrons from atoms to produce ions.
Organisms that have an optimal growth temperature above 80°C.
- EPISTASIS GROUP
This occurs when two or more genes control a phenotype. The combined effect of mutations in these genes on a phenotype deviates from the sum of their individual effects.
- NON-HOMOLOGOUS END JOINING
One of several pathways that can be used to repair chromosomal double-strand DNA breaks. The process is non-homologous because adjacent broken strands are fused by direct end-to-end contact without regard to sequence homology. Therefore, non-homologous end joining is error-prone because it results in joining of the breaks without a template.
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Cox, M., Battista, J. Deinococcus radiodurans — the consummate survivor. Nat Rev Microbiol 3, 882–892 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrmicro1264
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