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Mutat Res. 1994 Aug;316(2):59-67.

An age-related increase in the basal level of DNA damage and DNA vulnerability to oxygen radicals in the individual hepatocytes of male F344 rats.

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First Department of Pathology, Nagasaki University School of Medicine, Japan.


Previous biochemical studies on pooled hepatocytes have provided a wealth of information concerning age-related changes in DNA damage and DNA vulnerability (susceptibility) to oxygen radicals and related oxidants, but these studies focused on the whole liver and not on individual hepatocytes. The present study was designed to clarify the DNA damage and DNA vulnerability to hydrogen peroxide in individual hepatocytes using single cell gel electrophoresis (comet assay), a method that measures DNA single-stranded breaks/alkali-labile sites in individual cells. Hepatocytes were prepared from the liver of young (6-11 months) and old (26-29 months) male Fischer 344 rats. DNA damage was induced by exposure to hydrogen peroxide (3 x 10(-5), 3 x 10(-3)%). Observation of each comet image (migration length of DNA (MLD)) was performed in a non-exposure status (basal level) and after exposure. The mean value of MLD was significantly increased (approximately 1.5-fold) in the old rats at the basal level (P = 0.009). Moreover, the proportion of highly DNA-damaged hepatocytes (MLD > 80 microns) increased significantly (approximately 2.5-fold) in advanced age (P = 0.02). The mean value of MLD after exposure to hydrogen peroxide was increased with its concentration, but no significant difference was observed in DNA vulnerability to hydrogen peroxide between young and old rats. However, the proportion of hepatocytes showing a markedly high DNA vulnerability (MLD > 140 microns) to hydrogen peroxide was significantly higher in the old rats than in the young rats. It is suggested that the age-related increase in DNA vulnerability to oxygen radicals and/or related oxidants in some subpopulations causes the increase in DNA damage in advanced age in the liver as a whole.

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