Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Yuan Liu

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Yuk-Ching Tse-Dinh

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Irina Agoulnik

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Xiaotang Wang

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Lou Kim

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


DNA damage, Base Excision Repair, Epigenetics, DNA methylation

Date of Defense



DNA damage can cause genome instability, which may lead to human cancer. The most common form of DNA damage is DNA base damage, which is efficiently repaired by DNA base excision repair (BER). Thus BER is the major DNA repair pathway that maintains the stability of the genome. On the other hand, BER mediates DNA demethylation that can occur on the promoter region of important tumor suppressor genes such as Breast Cancer 1 (BRCA1) gene that is also involved in prevention and development of cancer. In this study, employing cell-based and in vitro biochemical approaches along with bisulfite DNA sequencing, we initially discovered that an oxidized nucleotide, 5’,2-cyclo-2-deoxyadenosine in DNA duplex can either cause misinsertion by DNA polymerase β (pol β) during pol β-mediated BER or inhibit lesion bypass of pol β resulting in DNA strand breaks. We then explored how a T/G mismatch resulting from active DNA demethylation can affect genome integrity during BER and found that pol β can extend the mismatched T to cause mutation. We found that AP endonuclease 1 (APE1) can use its 3'-5' exonuclease to remove the mismatched T before pol β can extend the nucleotide preventing a C to T mutation. The results demonstrate that the 3'-5' exonuclease activity of APE1 can serve as a proofreader for pol β to prevent mutation. We further explored the effects of exposure of environmental toxicants, bromate and chromate on the DNA methylation pattern on the promoter region of BRCA1 gene with bisulfite DNA sequencing. We found that bromate and chromate induced demethylation of 5-methylcytosines (5mC) at the CpG sites as well as created additional methylation at several unmethylated CpG sites at BRCA1 gene in human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells. We further demonstrated that the demethylation was mediated by pol β nucleotide misinsertion and an interaction between pol β and DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) suggesting a cross-talk between BER and DNA methyltransferases. We suggest that DNA base damage and BER govern the interactions among the environment, the genome and epigenome, modulating the stability of the genome and epigenome and disease development.



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