The genetic defect in Cockayne syndrome is associated with a defect in repair of UV-induced DNA damage in transcriptionally active DNA
Cells from patients with Cockayne syndrome (CS) are hypersensitive to UV-irradiation but have an apparently normal ability to remove pyrimidine dimers from the genome overall. We have measured the repair of pyrimidine dimers in defined DNA sequences in three normal and two CS cell strains. When compared to a nontranscribed locus, transcriptionally active genes were preferentially repaired in all three normal cell strains. There was no significant variation in levels of repair between various normal individuals or between two constitutively expressed genes, indicating that preferential repair may be a consistent feature of constitutively expressed genes in human cells. Neither CS strain, from independent complementation groups, was able to repair transcriptionally active DNA with a similar rate and to the same extent as normal cells, indicating that the genetic defect in CS lies in the pathway for repair of transcriptionally active DNA. These results have implications for understanding the pleiotropic clinical effects associated with disorders having defects in the repair of DNA damage. In particular, neurodegeneration appears to be associated with the loss of preferential repair of active genes and is not simply correlated with reduced levels of overall repair.