Studies of the repair of O6-alkylguanine and O4-alkylthymine in DNA by alkyltransferases from mammalian cells and bacteria

A. E. Pegg, M. E. Dolan, D. Scicchitano, K. Morimoto

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O6-methylguanine in DNA is repaired by the action of a protein termed O6-alkylguanine-DNA alkyltransferase (AT) which transfers the methyl group to a cystein residue in its own sequence. Since the cysteine which is methylated is not regenerated rapidly, if at all, the capacity for repair of O6-methylguanine is limited by the number of molecules of the AT available within the cell. The level and inducibility of the AT differed greatly in different mammalian cell types and species with the highest levels in human tissues and in liver and in the lowest levels in brain. Only a small induction occurred in rat liver in response to exposure to alkylating agents. In E. coli such exposure increased the activity more than 100-fold. The AT was not specific for methyl groups but also removed ethyl, 2-hydroxyethyl, n-propyl, isopropyl and n-butyl groups from the O6-position in DNA. The protein isolated from E. coli removed methyl groups much more rapidly than the larger alkyl groups but the mammalian AT isolated from rat liver showed much less difference in rate with adducts of different size. Ethyl and n-propyl groups were removed by the rat liver AT only three to four times more slowly than methyl groups. Another important difference between the bacterial and mammalian ATs is that the bacterial protein was also able to remove methyl groups from the O4-position of thymine in methylated DNA of poly(dT) but the AT from rat liver or human fibroblasts did not repair O4-methylthymidine. These results indicate that the results obtained with the E. coli system may not be a suitable model for extrapolation to predictions of the effects of alkylating agents in initiating tumors or mutations in mammalian cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-114
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
VolumeVOL. 62
StatePublished - 1985

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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