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Polymerase iota plays a key role during translesion synthesis of UV-induced lesions in the absence of polymerase eta.

Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) variant cells are deficient in the translesion synthesis (TLS) DNA polymerase Polη (eta). This protein contributes to DNA damage tolerance, bypassing unrepaired UV photoproducts and allowing S-phase progression with minimal delay. In the absence of Polη, backup polymerases perform TLS of UV lesions. However, which polymerase plays this role in human cells remains an open question. Here, we investigated the potential role of Polι (iota) in bypassing ultraviolet (UV) induced photoproducts in the absence of Polη, using NER-deficient (XP-C) cells knocked down for Polι and/or Polη genes. Our results indicate that cells lacking either Polι or Polη have increased sensitivity to UVC radiation. The lack of both TLS polymerases led to increased cell death and defects in proliferation and migration. Loss of both polymerases induces a significant replication fork arrest and G1/S-phase blockage, compared to the lack of Polη alone. In conclusion, we propose that Polι acts as a bona fide backup for Polη in the TLS of UV-photoproducts.

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