Mutations of the Xpc gene cause a deficiency in global genome repair, a subpathway of nucleotide excision repair (NER), in mammalian cells. We used transgenic mice harboring the λ-phage-based lacZ mutational reporter gene to study the effect of an Xpc null mutation (Xpc-/-) on damage induction, repair and mutagenesis in mouse skin epidermis after UVB irradiation. UVB induced equal amounts of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs) and pyrimidine(6-4)pyrimidone photoproducts (64PPs) in mouse skin epidermis of Xpc-/- and wild-type mice. CPDs were not significantly removed in either of the mouse genotypes by 12 h after irradiation, whereas removal of 64PPs was observed in the wild-type. Irradiation with 300 and 400 J/m2 UVB increased the lacZ mutant frequency in the Xpc-/- epidermis to at least twice as high as in the wild-type. Ninety-nine lacZ mutants isolated from the UVB-exposed epidermis of Xpc-/-mice were analyzed and compared with mutant sequences from irradiated wild-type mice. The spectra of the mutations in the two genotypes were both highly UV-specific and similar in the dominance of C → T transitions at dipyrimidine sites; however, Xpc-/- mice had a higher frequency of two-base tandem substitutions, including CC → TT mutations, three-base tandem substitutions and double base substitutions that were separated by one unchanged base in a three-base sequence (alternating mutations). These tandem/alternating mutations included a remarkably large number of triplet mutations, a recently reported, novel type of UV-specific mutation, characterized by multiple base substitutions or frameshifts within a three-nucleotide sequence containing a dipyrimidine. We concluded that the triplet mutation is a UV-specific mutation that preferably occurs in NER deficient genetic backgrounds.
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