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Biochem Pharmacol. 1988 Sep 15;37(18):3401-6.

Studies of the role of DNA fragmentation in selenium toxicity.

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  • 1Department of Toxicology, National Institute of Occupational Health, Solna, Sweden.


The role of DNA damage in selenite cytotoxicity was studied in isolated hepatocyte model systems. An initial series of experiments, with hepatocytes in suspension, indicated that selenite-induced DNA fragmentation was oxygen dependent and could be inhibited by cyanide, HgCl2 and CuDIPS. These findings were interpreted to imply that selenite-induced redox cycles were involved in this effect. In a second series of experiments, the effect of inhibitors of poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase (3-aminobenzamide and theophylline) and DNA alkylating agents on selenite-induced cellular lysis was studied. These experiments were performed with hepatocytes in primary culture and 20-30 microM selenite lysed the cultured cells after about 20 hr exposure. It was found that alkylators added 20 hr before selenite acted synergistically with selenite, and that inhibitors of poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase antagonized lysis. Further studies also indicated NAD degradation before lysis. These data indicate a modulating role for DNA damage in selenite cytotoxicity mediated by poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase. Taken together with previously published data on, for example, potentially lethal oxidation of NADPH (Anundi et al., Chem. Biol. Interact. 50, 277, 1984) they also suggest that cell death resulted from interactions between several events that may deplete energy supplies. The results are compatible with a selective killing of DNA-damaged hepatocytes by low doses of selenite.

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