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Curr Biol. 2002 Mar 5;12(5):397-402.

Oxygen metabolism causes chromosome breaks and is associated with the neuronal apoptosis observed in DNA double-strand break repair mutants.

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Department of Pathology, Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles 90089-9176, USA.


Cells deficient in a major DNA double-strand break repair pathway (nonhomologous DNA end joining [NHEJ]) have increased spontaneous chromosome breaks; however, the source of these chromosome breaks has remained undefined. Here, we show that the observed spontaneous chromosome breaks are partially suppressed by reducing the cellular oxygen tension. Conversely, elevating the level of reactive oxygen species by overexpressing the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1), in a transgenic mouse, increases chromosome breakage. The effect of SOD1 can also be modulated by cellular oxygen tension. The elevated chromosome breakage correlates histologically with a significant increase in the amount of neuronal cell death in Ku86(-/-) SOD1 transgenic embryos over that seen in Ku86(-/-) embryos. Therefore, oxygen metabolism is a major source of the genomic instability observed in NHEJ-deficient cells and, presumably, in all cells.

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