Recently, a novel gene-deletion method was developed for the crenarchaeal model Sulfolobus islandicus, which is a suitable tool for addressing gene essentiality in depth. Using this technique, we have investigated functions of putative DNA repair genes by constructing deletion mutants and studying their phenotype. We found that this archaeon may not encode a eukarya-type of NER (nucleotide excision repair) pathway because depleting each of the eukaryal NER homologues XPD, XPB and XPF did not impair the DNA repair capacity in their mutants. However, among seven homologous recombination proteins, including RadA, Hel308/Hjm, Rad50, Mre11, HerA, NurA and Hjc, only the Hjc nuclease is dispensable for cell viability. Sulfolobus encodes redundant BER (base excision repair) enzymes such as two uracil DNA glycosylases and two putative apurinic/apyrimidinic lyases, but inactivation of one of the redundant enzymes already impaired cell growth, highlighting their important roles in archaeal DNA repair. Systematically characterizing these mutants and generating mutants lacking two or more DNA repair genes will yield further insights into the genetic mechanisms of DNA repair in this model organism.

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