A matter of life or death: modeling DNA damage and repair in bacteria

Jens Karschau, Camila de Almeida, Morgiane C. Richard, Samantha Miller, Ian R. Booth, Celso Grebogi, Alessandro P. S. de Moura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


DNA damage is a hazard all cells must face, and evolution has created a number of mechanisms to repair damaged bases in the chromosome. Paradoxically, many of these repair mechanisms can create double-strand breaks in the DNA molecule which are fatal to the cell. This indicates that the connection between DNA repair and death is far from straightforward, and suggests that the repair mechanisms can be a double-edged sword. In this report, we formulate a mathematical model of the dynamics of DNA damage and repair, and we obtain analytical expressions for the death rate. We predict a counterintuitive relationship between survival and repair. We can discriminate between two phases: below a critical threshold in the number of repair enzymes, the half-life decreases with the number of repair enzymes, but becomes independent of the number of repair enzymes above the threshold. We are able to predict quantitatively the dependence of the death rate on the damage rate and other relevant parameters. We verify our analytical results by simulating the stochastic dynamics of DNA damage and repair. Finally, we also perform an experiment with Escherichia coli cells to test one of the predictions of our model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)814-821
Number of pages8
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number4
Early online date15 Feb 2011
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2011

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  • Escherichia-coli-cells
  • double-strand breaks
  • methylglyoxal production
  • potassium channels
  • detoxification
  • inactivation
  • replication
  • activation
  • mechanisms
  • metabolite


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