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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Alkylation of deoxyribonucleic acid by carcinogens dimethyl sulphate, ethyl methanesulphonate, N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea and N-methyl-N-nitrosourea. Relative reactivity of the phosphodiester site thymidylyl(3'-5')thymidine.

1. The ethyl phosphotriester of thymidylyl(3'-5')thymidine, dTp(Et)dT, was identified as a product from reaction of DNA with N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea, by procedures parallel to those reported previously for the methyl homologue produced by N-methyl-N-nitrosourea. 2. Enzymic degradation to yield alkyl phosphotriesters from DNA alkylated by these carcinogens and by dimethyl sulphate and ethyl methanesulphonate was studied quantitatively, and the relative yields of the triesters dTp(Alk)dT were determined. The relative reactivity of the phosphodiester group dTpdT to each of the four carcinogens was thus obtained, and compared with that of DNA overall, or with that of the N-7 atom of guanine in DNA. Relative reactivity of the phosphodiester group was lowest towards dimethyl sulphate, the least electrophilic of the reagents used, and was highest towards N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea, the most electrophilic reagent. 3. The nature of the alkyl group transferred also influenced reactivity of the phosphodiester site, since this site was relatively more reactive towards ethylation than would be predicted simply from the known Swain-Scott s values of the alkylating agents. It was therefore suggested that the steric accessibility of the weakly nucleophilic phosphodiester group on the outside of the DNA macromolecule favours its reaction with ethylating, as opposed to methylating, reagents. 4. Taking a value of the Swain-Scott nucleophilicity (n) of 2.5 for an average DNA nucleotide unit [Walles & Ehrenberg (1969) Acta Chem. Scand. 23, 1080-1084], a value of n of about 1 for the phosphodiester group was deduced, and this value was found to be 2-3 units less than that for the N-7 atom of guanine in DNA. 5. The reactivity of DNA overall was markedly high towards the alkylnitrosoureas, despite their relatively low s values. This was ascribed to an electrostatic factor that favoured reaction of the negatively charged polymer with alkyldiazonium cation intermediates.[1]


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