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Open Badges Protein family review

ATP-dependent DNA ligases

Ina V Martin and Stuart A MacNeill*

Author Affiliations

Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology, Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Edinburgh, King's Buildings, Edinburgh EH9 3JR, UK

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Genome Biology 2002, 3:reviews3005-reviews3005.7  doi:10.1186/gb-2002-3-4-reviews3005

Published: 19 March 2002


By catalyzing the joining of breaks in the phosphodiester backbone of duplex DNA, DNA ligases play a vital role in the diverse processes of DNA replication, recombination and repair. Three related classes of ATP-dependent DNA ligase are readily apparent in eukaryotic cells. Enzymes of each class comprise catalytic and non-catalytic domains together with additional domains of varying function. DNA ligase I is required for the ligation of Okazaki fragments during lagging-strand DNA synthesis, as well as for several DNA-repair pathways; these functions are mediated, at least in part, by interactions between DNA ligase I and the sliding-clamp protein PCNA. DNA ligase III, which is unique to vertebrates, functions both in the nucleus and in mitochondria. Two distinct isoforms of this enzyme, differing in their carboxy-terminal sequences, are produced by alternative splicing: DNA ligase IIIα has a carboxy-terminal BRCT domain that interacts with the mammalian DNA-repair factor XrccI, but both α and β isoforms have an amino-terminal zinc-finger motif that appears to play a role in the recognition of DNA secondary structures that resemble intermediates in DNA metabolism. DNA ligase IV is required for DNA non-homologous end joining pathways, including recombination of the V(D)J immunoglobulin gene segments in cells of the mammalian immune system. DNA ligase IV forms a tight complex with Xrcc4 through an interaction motif located between a pair of carboxy-terminal BRCT domains in the ligase. Recent structural studies have shed light on the catalytic function of DNA ligases, as well as illuminating protein-protein interactions involving DNA ligases IIIα and IV.