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Toxicology. 1981;22(1):9-21.

Selective effects of metal ions on RNA synthesis rates.


The effects of 14 metal ions (chlorides) on the transcription of calf thymus DNA and phage T4 DNA with Escherichia coli RNA polymerase were tested. These assays were conducted under improved conditions of lower pH and in the absence of 2-mercaptoethanol to permit greater stability of the metal ions in solution. Among the divalent metal ions tested, the concentration-dependent order of inhibition of overall transcription is Pb2+ greater than Zn2+ greater than Cu2+ greater than Be2+ greater than Cd2+ greater than Ni2+ greater than Ca2+ greater than Co2+ greater than Mn2+ greater than Mg2+ greater than Sr2+ and is the same with either template. At pH 7.4 and in the absence of 2-mercaptoethanol, considerably lower concentrations of several of the divalent metal ions are needed for inhibition of overall transcription than at pH 8.1 and in the presence of 2-mercaptoethanol. Ca2+, Mg2+, Sr2+, Zn2+, Li+, Na+, and K+--considered to be non-mutagenic and non-carcinogenic--decrease chain initiation (measured with T4 DNA) at concentrations that inhibit overall transcription. Pb2+, Cd2+, Co2+, Be2+, and Mn2+--all mutagenic or carcinogenic--stimulate chain initiation (although at widely different rates) at concentrations that inhibit overall transcription. Cu2+ and Ni2+--both carcinogenic--stimulate initiation only at very low concentrations, followed by a progressive decrease in initiation at concentrations that inhibit overall transcription.

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