Trp–DNA adducts resulting from UV irradiation of pyrimidine bases and nucleotides in the presence of tryptophan (Trp) have been the subject of previous research. However, the relative yield of the adducts compared with the UV screening effect of Trp has not been previously considered. To determine whether Trp–DNA adduct formation or absorption “screening” by Trp is the predominant process when DNA solutions are irradiated with UV light in the presence of Trp, we irradiated Trp-containing DNA oligonucleotide solutions with UVC light and incubated aliquots of those solutions with molecular beacons (MBs) to detect the damage. We observed a rapid decay of fluorescence of the MBs for pure DNA solutions, thereby indicating damage. However, in the presence of Trp, the fluorescence decay is prolonged, with time constants that increase exponentially with Trp concentration. The results are discussed in terms of a beneficial in vivo cellular protection rather than harmful adduct formation and suggest a net sacrificial absorption of UV light by Trp which actually protects the DNA from UV damage.
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