Molecular Biology Tutorials

DNA Repair: Part III – Base Excision Repair (BER) Mechanism


Cancer is a disease of the genome. And that’s what happens. You make mistakes in a cell somewhere in your body that causes it to start to grow when it should’ve stopped, and that’s cancer. And those mistakes are mistakes of DNA.

Francis Collins

What is Base Excision Repair or BER?

base excision repair of DNA

As the name suggests, it is a type of DNA repair mechanism present in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. In this DNA repair method, the damaged or unnatural base in the DNA double helix is removed by cleaving the N-glycosyl bond without disrupting the phosphodiester bond. N-glycosyl bond is the covalent bond which connects the nitrogen base with the deoxy-ribose sugar of the DNA. The importance of this bond is that, if an enzyme can cleave this particular bond, as it happens during base excision repair, it can selectively excise the nitrogen base from the DNA without altering the phosphodiester backbone. The main difference of Base Excision Repair from other repair mechanisms is that here only the damaged base is excised from the DNA strand, the phosphodiester back bone is not disturbed for the removal or the damaged bases. But in other DNA repair mechanisms such as mismatch repair or nucleotide excision repair, the damaged nucleotide (nucleotide = nitrogen base + sugar + phosphate group) as such is removed first and refilled by with correct nucleotides. Dear students, please remember, the cleavage of phosphate back bone is also occurs here but it happens in the second stage, not as the part of the removal of nitrogen base.

DNA Repair BER Overview

Continue reading