Cytosine deamination into uracil is one of the most prevalent and pro-mutagenic forms of damage to DNA. Base excision repair is a well-known process of uracil removal in DNA, which is achieved by uracil DNA glycosylase (UDG) that is found in all three domains of life. However, other strategies for uracil removal seem to have been evolved in Archaea. Exonuclease III (ExoIII) from the euryarchaeon Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus has been described to exhibit endonuclease activity toward uracil-containing DNA. Another uracil-acting protein, endonuclease Q (EndoQ), was recently identified from the euryarchaeon Pyrococcus furiosus. Here, we describe the uracil-counteracting system in the mesophilic euryarchaeon Methanosarcina acetivorans through genomic sequence analyses and biochemical characterizations. Three enzymes, UDG, ExoIII, and EndoQ, from M. acetivorans exhibited uracil cleavage activities in DNA with a distinct range of substrate specificities in vitro, and the transcripts for these three enzymes were detected in the M. acetivorans cells. Thus, this organism appears to conduct uracil repair using at least three distinct pathways. Distribution of the homologs of these uracil-targeting proteins in Archaea showed that this tendency is not restricted to M. acetivorans, but is prevalent and diverse in most Archaea. This work further underscores the importance of uracil-removal systems to maintain genome integrity in Archaea, including ‘UDG lacking’ organisms.
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