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Abstract

The genetic stability of living cells is continuously threatened by the presence of endogenous reactive oxygen species and other genotoxic molecules. Of particular threat are the thousands of DNA single-strand breaks that arise in each cell, each day, both directly from disintegration of damaged sugars and indirectly from the excision repair of damaged bases. If un-repaired, single-strand breaks can be converted into double-strand breaks during DNA replication, potentially resulting in chromosomal rearrangement and genetic deletion. Consequently, cells have adopted multiple pathways to ensure the rapid and efficient removal of single-strand breaks. A general feature of these pathways appears to be the extensive employment of protein–protein interactions to stimulate both the individual component steps and the overall repair reaction. Our current understanding of DNA single-strand break repair is discussed, and testable models for the architectural coordination of this important process are presented. BioEssays 23:447–455, 2001. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.