Journal Article

Induction of the alkyltransferase (MGMT) gene by DNA damaging agents and the glucocorticoid dexamethasone and comparison with the response of base excision repair genes

Thomas Grombacher, Sankar Mitra and Bernd Kaina

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 17, issue 11, pages 2329-2336
Published in print November 1996 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online November 1996 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/carcin/17.11.2329
Induction of the alkyltransferase (MGMT) gene by DNA damaging agents
                    and the glucocorticoid dexamethasone and comparison with the response of base
                    excision repair genes

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Repair of alkylated bases in DNA is performed by O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) and a set of enzymes of the base excision repair pathway involving N-methylpurine-DNA glycosylase (MPG), apurinic endonuclease (APE), DNA polymerase β (Pol β) and DNA ligase. The level of expression of these enzymes may exert a profound effect on resistance of cells towards alkylating drugs. We have comparatively analyzed the expression of MGMT and the different base excision repair genes in rat hepatoma cells (line H4IIE) after exposure to alkylating agents, X-rays and the glucocorticoid hormone dexamethasone. Furthermore, the effect of these agents on the activity of the cloned human MGMT promoter was assayed. Exposure of cells to N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG) or ionizing radiation increased MGMT mRNA levels up to 4.5-fold. Under the same conditions of treatment, exerting only a weak toxic effect, MPG and DNA ligase I mRNA levels were not enhanced, whereas the amounts of APE and Pol β mRNA transiently increased by ∼2-fold after X-ray and MNNG treatment, respectively. Dexamethasone induced both MGMT, APE and Pol β mRNA and the induction paralleled the increase in mRNA of the glucocorticoid-dependent gene tyrosine aminotransferase. The observed increase in MGMT mRNA was due to promoter activation, which was shown in transient transfection assays with MGMT promoter—CAT reporter constructs in H4IIE cells. In these assays, the human MGMT promoter was found to be induced by methylating agents (MNNG and methyl methanesulfonate), ionizing radiation and dexamethasone. Weak induction of the promoter was observed after UV irradiation. Treatment with the tumor promoter 12-O-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate was ineffective in promoter activation. The transfected MGMT promoter was not inducible by mutagens in HeLa S3 cells, which do not respond with induction of the endogenous MGMT gene. This is the first report showing hormone induction of a DNA repair gene (MGMT). The induction of MGMT and other genes encoding enzymes involved in DNA alkylation damage repair may be relevant in cancer therapy by causing resistance of tumor cells to alkylating drugs.

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Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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