DNA photolyases use light energy to repair DNA that comprises ultraviolet-induced lesions such as the cis-syn cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs). Here we report the crystal structure of a DNA photolyase bound to duplex DNA that is bent by 50 degrees and comprises a synthetic CPD lesion. This CPD lesion is flipped into the active site and split there into two thymines by synchrotron radiation at 100 K. Although photolyases catalyze blue light-driven CPD cleavage only above 200 K, this structure apparently mimics a structural substate during light-driven DNA repair in which back-flipping of the thymines into duplex DNA has not yet taken place.
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