50 years thymine dimer
Fifty years ago thymine dimer was discovered in the Biochemical and Biophysical Laboratory of Delft Technological University, The Netherlands, by one of the authors of this review (Beukers) as the first environmentally induced DNA lesion. It is one of the photoproducts formed between adjacent pyrimidine bases in DNA by UV irradiation, currently known as cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs) and (6-4) photoproducts. Major lesions found in DNA after in vitro or in vivo UV irradiation are the cis-syn cyclobutane thymine dimer and the thymine-cytosine (6-4) photoproduct. Even after 50 years the study of photo-induced DNA lesions is still going on as is illustrated by the hundreds of papers published every year and the millions hits when browsing the internet for dimer-related information. Living organisms possess efficient and different mechanisms to repair detrimental lesions in their DNA. A unique mechanism to repair CPDs is reversion by either direct interaction with light of short wavelength or by enzymatic photoreactivation. Photophysical mechanisms that induce and reverse molecular bonds in biological macromolecules have been a main focus of research of the group in Delft in the middle of the last century. This review describes the break-through results of these studies which were the result of intense interactions between scientists in the fields of physics, organic chemistry and biochemistry. Philosophically, the "view" of the group in Delft was very appealing: since in nature photolesions are induced in DNA by the sun, how is it possible that repair of these lesions could be accomplished by the same energy source. Evolutionary, it is hardly possible to think of a more efficient repair mechanism.