DNA — Information and Aging: The Balance Between Alteration and Repair

  • Z. A. Medvedev


The unique role of DNA in transfering genetic information from cell to cell and from generation to generation in evolution means that it is necessary to preserve the integrity of DNA molecules and their nucleotide sequences throughout millions of years and billions of replications. The complementarity of nucleotide base pairs in a double helix provides the main mechanism of the high accuracy of replication, but the potential of the hydrogen-bonded base pair complementarity alone would never be enough for this “thread of life” to preserve life on Earth in conditions where numerous environmental hazards, UV radiation, ionising radiation, free radicals, chemicals, and variations in temperature permanently produce changes in functional DNA molecules and errors during their replication. The highly efficient correction of DNA sequence errors is, therefore, absolutely essential and very many biochemical systems exist in cells and their nuclei for this purpose. The DNA repair system in prokaryotes and in germ cells of eukaryotes needs to preserve the integrity of genetic information over long evolutionary periods. However, somatic cells which function for only days, months or years and leave no progeny after the death of individual organisms do not need the same level of efficiency of correction of DNA sequence errors. Kirkwood and Holliday (1979) have suggested that a lower level of accuracy in synthesis and repair of macromolecules in somatic cells is (as compared with germ cells) an adaptation which saves energy; they postulate that aging occurs as a consequence (Kirkwood 1977; Kirkwood and Holliday 1979).


Excision Repair Proliferate Tissue Peromyscus Leucopus Postreplication Repair Premature Aging Syndrome 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Z. A. Medvedev
    • 1
  1. 1.Genetics DivisionNational Institute for Medical ResearchMill Hill, LondonUK

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