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

DNA cleavage during ethanol metabolism: role of superoxide radicals and catalytic iron.

The generation of superoxide and related free radicals and the mobilization of catalytic iron due to ethanol metabolism have been suggested as mechanisms of alcohol-induced liver injury as well as of the increased risk of cancer observed in alcoholics. Cleavage of double stranded DNA is produced by both free radicals as well as by catalytic iron. The effects of ethanol metabolism on DNA cleavage were therefore studied in vitro as well as in vivo in isolated hepatocytes. Intactness of double stranded DNA was studied by measuring ethidium bromide fluorescence after DNA electrophoresis. In vitro, the metabolism of acetaldehyde by aldehyde oxidase caused cleavage of Lambda phage DNA. Cleavage was inhibited by both superoxide dismutase and desferrioxamine indicating the role of superoxide radicals and catalytic iron respectively. Studies with HIND III digests of the Lambda phage indicate a lack of specificity in the breaks with respect to nucleotide sequences. Addition of EDTA greatly enhanced cleavage. In vivo, ethanol metabolism caused minimal breakage in hepatocyte DNA and addition of acetaldehyde (100 microM) markedly enhanced cleavage; all cleavage was inhibited by desferrioxamine. The metabolism of ethanol to acetaldehyde and the further metabolism of acetaldehyde by aldehyde oxidase generates free radicals and mobilizes iron; these may contribute to alcohol-induced injury and carcinogenesis.[1]


  1. DNA cleavage during ethanol metabolism: role of superoxide radicals and catalytic iron. Rajasinghe, H., Jayatilleke, E., Shaw, S. Life Sci. (1990) [Pubmed]
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