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Tardigrades are known for being resistant to extreme conditions, including tolerance to ionising and UV radiation in both the hydrated and the dehydrated state. It is known that these factors may cause damage to DNA. It has recently been shown that single and double DNA strand breaks occur when tardigrades are maintained for a long time in the anhydrobiotic state. This may suggest that perhaps tardigrades rely on efficient DNA repair mechanisms. Among all proteins that comprise the DNA repair system, recombinases such as RecA or Rad51 have a very important function: DNA exchange activity. This enzyme is used in the homologous recombination and allows repair of the damaged strand using homologous non-damaged strands as a template. In this study, Rad51 induction was evaluated by western blot in Milnesium cf. tardigradum, after exposure to gamma radiation. The Rad51 protein was highly induced by radiation, when compared to the control. The rad51 genes were searched in three tardigrades: Milnesium cf. tardigradum, Hypsibius dujardini and Macrobiotus cf. harmsworthi. The gene sequences were obtained by preparing and sequencing transcriptome libraries for H. dujardini and M. cf. harmsworthi and designing rad51 degenerate primers specific for M. cf. tardigradum. Comparison of Rad51 putative proteins from tardigrades with other organisms showed that they are highly similar to the corresponding sequence from the nematode Trichinella spiralis. A structure-based sequence alignment from tardigrades and other organisms revealed that putative Rad51 predicted proteins from tardigrades contain the expected motifs for these important recombinases. In a cladogram tree based on this alignment, tardigrades tend to cluster together suggesting that they have selective differences in these genes that make them diverge between species. Predicted Rad51 structures from tardigrades were also compared with crystalline structure of Rad51 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. These results reveal that S. cerevisiae Rad51 structure is very similar to that of the three analysed tardigrades. On the other hand the predicted structure of Rad51 from M. cf. harmsworthi and H. dujardini are closer related to each other, than each of them to that of M. cf. tardigradum.
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