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Nucleic Acids Res. 2010 Dec;38(22):8178-87. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkq706. Epub 2010 Aug 11.

O6-methylguanine induces altered proteins at the level of transcription in human cells.

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Department of Biology, New York University, 1009 Silver Center, 100 Washington Square East, New York, NY 10003, USA.


O(6)-Methylguanine (O(6)-meG), which is produced in DNA following exposure to methylating agents, instructs human RNA polymerase II to mis-insert bases opposite the lesion during transcription. In this study, we examined the effect of O(6)-meG on transcription in human cells and investigated the subsequent effects on protein function following translation of the resulting mRNA. In HEK293 cells, O(6)-meG induced incorporation of uridine or cytidine in nascent RNA opposite the adduct. In cells containing active O(6)-alkylguanine-DNA alkyltransferase (AGT), which repairs O(6)-meG, 3% misincorporation of uridine was observed opposite the lesion. In cells where AGT function was compromised by addition of the AGT inhibitor O(6)-benzylguanine, ∼ 58% of the transcripts contained a uridine misincorporation opposite the lesion. Furthermore, the altered mRNA induced changes to protein function as demonstrated through recovery of functional red fluorescent protein (RFP) from DNA coding for a non-fluorescent variant of RFP. These data show that O(6)-meG is highly mutagenic at the level of transcription in human cells, leading to an altered protein load, especially when AGT is inhibited.

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