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DNA Repair (Amst). 2003 Jan 2;2(1):27-48.

Hypersensitivity of DNA polymerase beta null mouse fibroblasts reflects accumulation of cytotoxic repair intermediates from site-specific alkyl DNA lesions.

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Laboratory of Structural Biology, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA.


Monofunctional alkylating agents react with DNA by S(N)1 or S(N)2 mechanisms resulting in formation of a wide spectrum of cytotoxic base adducts. DNA polymerase beta (beta-pol) is required for efficient base excision repair of N-alkyl adducts, and we make use of the hypersensitivity of beta-pol null mouse fibroblasts to investigate such alkylating agents with a view towards understanding the DNA lesions responsible for the cellular phenotype. The inability of O(6)-benzylguanine to sensitize wild-type or beta-pol null cells to S(N)1-type methylating agents indicates that the observed hypersensitivity is not due to differential repair of cytotoxic O-alkyl adducts. Using a 3-methyladenine-specific agent and an inhibitor of such methylation, we find that inefficient repair of 3-methyladenine is not the reason for the hypersensitivity of beta-pol null cells to methylating agents, and further that 3-methyladenine is not the adduct primarily responsible for methyl methanesulfonate (MMS)- and methyl nitrosourea-induced cytotoxicity in wild-type cells. Relating the expected spectrum of DNA adducts and the relative sensitivity of cells to monofunctional alkylating agents, we propose that the hypersensitivity of beta-pol null cells reflects accumulation of cytotoxic repair intermediates, such as the 5'-deoxyribose phosphate group, following removal of 7-alkylguanine from DNA. In support of this conclusion, beta-pol null cells are also hypersensitive to the thymidine analog 5-hydroxymethyl-2'-deoxyuridine (hmdUrd). This agent is incorporated into cellular DNA and elicits cytotoxicity only when removed by glycosylase-initiated base excision repair. Consistent with the hypothesis that there is a common repair intermediate resulting in cytotoxicity following treatment with both types of agents, both MMS and hmdUrd-initiated cell death are preceded by a similar rapid concentration-dependent suppression of DNA synthesis and a later cell cycle arrest in G(0)/G(1) and G(2)M phases.

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