Kinetics of cyclobutane thymine dimer splitting by DNA photolyase directly monitored in the UV
CPD photolyase uses light to repair cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs) formed between adjacent pyrimidines in UV-irradiated DNA. The enzyme harbors an FAD cofactor in fully reduced state (FADH-). The CPD repair mechanism involves electron transfer from photoexcited FADH-to the CPD, splitting of its intradimer bonds, and electron return to restore catalytically active FADH-. The two electron transfer processes occur on time scales of 10-10and 10-9s, respectively. Until now, CPD splitting itself has only been poorly characterized by experiments. Using a previously unreported transient absorption setup, we succeeded in monitoring cyclobutane thymine dimer repair in the main UV absorption band of intact thymine at 266 nm. Flavin transitions that overlay DNA-based absorption changes at 266 nm were monitored independently in the visible and subtracted to obtain the true repair kinetics. Restoration of intact thymine showed a short lag and a biexponential rise with time constants of 0.2 and 1.5 ns. We assign these two time constants to splitting of the intradimer bonds (creating one intact thymine and one thymine anion radical T○-) and electron return from T○-to the FAD cofactor with recovery of the second thymine, respectively. Previous model studies and computer simulations yielded various CPD splitting times between <1 ps and <100 ns. Our experimental results should serve as a benchmark for future efforts to model enzymatic photorepair. The technique and methods developed here may be applied to monitor other photoreactions involving DNA.