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Free Radic Res Commun. 1985;1(1):1-9.

Inability of chemically generated singlet oxygen to break the DNA backbone.

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  • 1Antropogenetisch Instituut, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The capacity of a photodynamic and a chemical source of singlet molecular oxygen to cause DNA strand breakage at pH 7.8 was compared in the following systems: (1) dissolved rose bengal plus light (400-660 nm), (2) a novel water-soluble naphthalene-derived endoperoxide showing temperature-dependent singlet oxygen release, in the absence of light. Covalently closed circular DNA was efficiently converted to the open (relaxed) form upon exposure to dissolved rose bengal plus light in a time-dependent reaction, showing that this system was capable of causing DNA strand breakage at pH 7.8. The reaction was greatly reduced under hypoxic conditions (less than 5 p.p.m. O2), was stimulated when using D2O instead of H2O as a solvent and was not inhibitable by superoxide dismutase, indicating that singlet oxygen was a critical intermediate. However, comparatively large fluxes of singlet oxygen generated by the endoperoxide completely failed to produce DNA strand breaks. We conclude that, although singlet oxygen seems to play a role in DNA strand breakage by rose bengal plus light, singlet oxygen per se is very inefficient if not completely incapable of causing DNA strand breakage.

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