Journal Article

Effect of sulphur mustard on the initiation and elongation of transcription

Andrew Masta, Peter J. Gray and Don R. Phillips

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 17, issue 3, pages 525-532
Published in print March 1996 | ISSN: 0143-3334
e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI:
Effect of sulphur mustard on the initiation and elongation of transcription

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Sulphur mustard is a potent alkylating agent that causes severe vesication as well as systemic and genotoxic effects. Despite its long history as a chemical warfare agent, the mechanism of its toxicity remains unknown and no successful pharmacological intervention has yet been found. In this study we have examined the effects of mustard alkylation of DNA on transcriptional processes. Gel mobility shift analysis shows that mustard alkylation of theIac UV5 promoter increases the stability of the promoter-RNA polymerase binary complex. Following formation of the initiation complex and addition of elongation nucleotides, ∼45% of the RNA polymerase in the initiated complex remained associated with the alkylated promoter, compared to only 7% remaining associated with the unalkylated promoter. For the RNA polymerase able to escape the initiation complex, mustard alkylation of the DNA template resulted in the production of truncated transcripts. Analysis of these truncated transcripts revealed that sulphur mustard alkylates DNA preferentially at 5'AA, 5'-GG and 5'-GNC sequences on the DNA template strand and this is significantly different from the alkylation sites observed with nitrogen mustard. This study represents the first report at the molecular level of sulphur mustard-induced effects on transcriptional processes.

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Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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