Selenium (Se) belongs to nutrients that are essential for human health. Biological activity of this compound, however, mainly depends on its dose, with a potential of Se to induce detrimental effects at high doses. Although mechanisms lying behind detrimental effects of Se are poorly understood yet, they involve DNA damage induction. Consequently, DNA damage response and repair pathways may play a crucial role in cellular response to Se. Using Saccharomyces cerevisiae we showed that sodium selenite (SeL), an inorganic form of Se, can be toxic and mutagenic in this organism due to its ability to induce DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). Moreover, we reported that a spectrum of mutations induced by this compound in the stationary phase of growth is mainly represented by 1-4 bp deletions. Consequently, we proposed that SeL acts as an oxidizing agent in yeast producing oxidative damage to DNA. As short deletions could be anticipated to arise as a result of action of non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) and oxidative damage to DNA is primarily coped with base excision repair (BER), a contribution of these two pathways towards survival, DSB induction, mutation frequency and types of mutations following SeL exposure was examined in present study. First, we show that while NHEJ plays no role in repairing toxic DNA lesions induced by SeL, cells with impairment in BER are sensitized towards this compound. Of BER activities examined, those responsible for processing of 3'-blocking DNA termini seem to be the most crucial for manifestation of the toxic effects of SeL in yeast. Second, an impact of NHEJ and BER on DSB induction after SeL exposure turned to be inappreciable, as no increase in DNA double-strand breakage in NHEJ and BER single or NHEJ BER double mutant upon SeL exposure was observed. Finally, we demonstrate that impairment in both these pathways does not importantly change mutation frequency after SeL exposure and that NHEJ is not responsible for generation of short deletions after SeL treatment, as these were comparably induced in the wild-type and NHEJ-defective cells.
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