Direct DNA Damage

Direct DNA damage can occur when DNA directly absorbs the UV-B-photon. UVB light causes thymine base pairs next to each other in genetic sequences to bond together into pyrimidine dimers, a disruption in the strand, which reproductive enzymes cannot copy. It causes sunburn and it triggers the production of melanin.

Other names for the "direct DNA damage" are:

  • thymine dimers
  • pyrimidine dimers
  • Cyclobutane Pyrimidine Dimers (CPDs).
  • UV-endonuclease-sensitive-sites (ESS)

Due to the excellent photochemical properties of DNA, this nature-made molecule is damaged only by a tiny fraction of the absorbed photons. DNA transforms more than 99.9% of the photons into harmless heat (But the damage from the remaining < 0.1% of the photons is still enough to cause sunburn). The transformation of excitation energy into harmless heat occurs via a photochemical process called internal conversion. In DNA, this internal conversion is extremely fast—and therefore efficient. This ultrafast (subpicosecond) internal conversion is an extremely powerful photoprotection provided by single nucleotides. However, the Ground-State Recovery is much slower (picoseconds) in G·C−DNA duplexes and hairpins. It is presumed to be even slower for double-stranded DNA in conditions of the nucleus. The absorption spectrum of DNA shows a strong absorption for UVB-radiation and a much lower absorption for UVA-radiation. Since the action spectrum of sunburn is identical to the absorption spectrum of DNA, it is generally accepted that the direct DNA damages are the cause of sunburn. While the human body reacts to direct DNA damages with a painful warning signal, no such warning signal is generated from indirect DNA damage.

Read more about Direct DNA Damage:  Sunscreen and Melanoma, Effect of Topical Sunscreen and Effect of Absorbed Sunscreen

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... The direct DNA damage is reduced by sunscreen ... the sunscreen molecules have penetrated into the skin, they protect against the direct DNA damage, because the UV-light is absorbed by the sunscreen and not by the DNA ...
Ultraviolet - Applications of UV - Biology Related Uses - Sun Tanning
... production of melanin is triggered by the direct DNA damage ... This kind of damage is recognized by the body and as a defense against UV radiation the skin produces more melanin ... Melanin protects against the direct DNA damage and against the indirect DNA damage ...

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