Journal Article

Uracil misincorporation in human DNA detected using single cell gel electrophoresis.

S J Duthie and P McMillan

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 18, issue 9, pages 1709-1714
Published in print January 1997 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online January 1997 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/carcin/18.9.1709
Uracil misincorporation in human DNA detected using single cell gel electrophoresis.

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Poor folate status may be important in the aetiology of several epithelial cell malignancies including cancer of the uterine cervix. Folic acid is essential in the synthesis of purine nucleotides and the pyrimidine nucleoside thymidine and it is probable that imbalances in these DNA precursors negatively effect DNA stability and may ultimately lead to malignant transformation. The development of a modified 'comet assay' using the bacterial DNA repair enzyme uracil DNA glycosylase, to detect misincorporated uracil in human DNA is reported here. The effect of perturbing folic acid and deoxyuridine levels on uracil misincorporation in normal human lymphocytes and cultured human tumour cells was investigated using this assay. HeLa cells and peripheral human lymphocytes incubated as agarose-embedded nucleoids, with 1 unit of uracil DNA glycosylase per microg of DNA, contained low levels of uracil in their DNA. Both HeLa cells and stimulated human lymphocytes cultured in folate-deficient medium were growth arrested. Incubating human lymphocytes in folate-deficient medium significantly increased the level of uracil detected compared with control cells. HeLa cells showed an increase in non-specific DNA damage (strand breaks). Deoxyuridine (100 microM) significantly increased the level of uracil detected in the DNA of both folate-deficient and control HeLa cells. It appears that this modified comet assay specifically detects misincorporated uracil in single human cells. It should, therefore, prove valuable in determining the role of folic acid status in DNA instability and cancer.

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Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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