Journal Article

Presence and consequence of uracil in preneoplastic DNA from folate/methyl-deficient rats.

I P Pogribny, L Muskhelishvili, B J Miller and S J James

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 18, issue 11, pages 2071-2076
Published in print November 1997 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online November 1997 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI:
Presence and consequence of uracil in preneoplastic DNA from folate/methyl-deficient rats.

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Uracil can arise in DNA by misincorporation of dUTP into nascent DNA and/or by cytosine deamination in established DNA. Based on recent findings, both pathways appear to be promoted in the methyl-deficient model of hepatocarcinogenesis. A chronic increase in the ratio dUTP:dTTP with folate/methyl deficiency can result in a futile cycle of excision and reiterative uracil misincorporation leading to premutagenic apyrimidinic (AP) sites, DNA strand breaks, DNA fragmentation and apoptotic cell death. The progressive accumulation of unmethylated cytosines with chronic methyl deficiency will increase the potential for cytosine deamination to uracil and further stress uracil mismatch repair mechanisms. Uracil is removed by a highly specific uracil-DNA glycosylase (UDG) leaving an AP site that is subsequently repaired by sequential action of AP endonuclease, 5'-phosphodiesterase, a DNA polymerase and DNA ligase. Since the DNA polymerases cannot distinguish between dUTP and dTTP, an increase in dUTP:dTTP ratio will promote uracil misincorporation during both DNA replication and repair synthesis. The misincorporation of uracil for thymine (5-methyluracil) may constitute a genetically significant form of DNA hypomethylation distinct from cytosine hypomethylation. In the present study a significant increase in the level of uracil in liver DNA as early as 3 weeks after initiation of folate/methyl deficiency was accompanied by parallel increases in DNA strand breaks, AP sites and increased levels of AP endonuclease mRNA. In addition, uracil was also detected within the p53 gene sequence using UDG PCR techniques. Increased levels of uracil in DNA implies that the capacity for uracil base excision repair is exceeded with chronic folate/methyl deficiency. It is possible that enzyme-induced extrahelical bases, AP sites and DNA strand breaks interact to negatively affect the stability of the DNA helix and stress the structural limits of permissible uracil base excision repair activity. Thus substitution of uracil for thymine induces repair-related premutagenic lesions and a novel form of DNA hypomethylation that may relate to tumor promotion in the methyl-deficient model of hepatocarcinogenesis.

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Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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