Somatic mutations are the driving force of cancer genome evolution. The rate of somatic mutations appears in great variability across the genome due to chromatin organization, DNA accessibility and replication timing. However, other variables that may influence the mutation rate locally, such as DNA-binding proteins, are unknown. Here we demonstrate that the rate of somatic mutations in melanoma tumors is highly increased at active Transcription Factor binding sites (TFBS) and nucleosome embedded DNA, compared to their flanking regions. Using recently available excision-repair sequencing (XR-seq) data, we show that the higher mutation rate at these sites is caused by a decrease of the levels of nucleotide excision repair (NER) activity. Therefore, our work demonstrates that DNA-bound proteins interfere with the NER machinery, which results in an increased rate of mutations at their binding sites. This finding has important implications in our understanding of mutational and DNA repair processes and in the identification of cancer driver mutations.
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