Halophilic archaea experience high levels of ultraviolet (UV) light in their environments and demonstrate resistance to UV irradiation. DNA repair systems and carotenoids provide UV protection but do not account for the high resistance observed. Herein, we consider genomic signatures as an additional photoprotective strategy. The predominant forms of UV-induced DNA damage are cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers, most notoriously thymine dimers (T^Ts), which form at adjacent Ts. We tested whether the high G + C content seen in halophilic archaea serves a photoprotective function through limiting T nucleotides, and thus T^T lesions. However, this speculation overlooks the other bipyrimidine sequences, all of which capable of forming photolesions to varying degrees. Therefore, we designed a program to determine the frequencies of the four bipyrimidine pairs (5’ to 3’: TT, TC, CT, and CC) within genomes of halophilic archaea and four other randomized sample groups for comparison. The outputs for each sampled genome were weighted by the intrinsic photoreactivities of each dinucleotide pair. Statistical methods were employed to investigate intergroup differences. Our findings indicate that the UV-resistance seen in halophilic archaea can be attributed in part to a genomic strategy: high G + C content and the resulting bipyrimidine signature reduces the genomic photoreactivity.
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