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Commun Biol. 2019 Feb 26;2:81. doi: 10.1038/s42003-019-0326-5. eCollection 2019.

Organochlorinated pesticides expedite the enzymatic degradation of DNA.

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1Institute of Organic Contaminant Control and Soil Remediation, College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, Nanjing Agricultural University, 210095 Nanjing, China.
2Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, and Environmental Science and Policy Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824 USA.
3Key Laboratory of Soil Environment and Pollution Remediation, Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 210023 Nanjing, China.
4Department of Civil Engineering, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68588 USA.
Contributed equally


Extracellular DNA in the environment may play important roles in genetic diversity and biological evolution. However, the influence of environmental persistent organic contaminants such as organochlorinated pesticides (e.g., hexachlorocyclohexanes [HCHs]) on the enzymatic degradation of extracellular DNA has not been elucidated. In this study, we observed expedited enzymatic degradation of extracellular DNA in the presence of α-HCH, β-HCH and γ-HCH. The HCH-expedited DNA degradation was not due to increased deoxyribonuclease I (DNase I) activity. Our spectroscopic and computational results indicate that HCHs bound to DNA bases (most likely guanine) via Van der Waals forces and halogen bonds. This binding increased the helicity and accumulation of DNA base pairs, leading to a more compact DNA structure that exposed more sites susceptible to DNase I and thus expedited DNA degradation. This study provided insight into the genotoxicity and ecotoxicity of pesticides and improved our understanding of DNA persistence in contaminated environments.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no competing interests.

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