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

Nonenzymatic methylation of DNA by the intracellular methyl group donor S-adenosyl-L-methionine is a potentially mutagenic reaction.

Incubation of DNA with S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM) in neutral aqueous solution leads to base modification, with formation of small amounts of 7-methylguanine and 3-methyladenine. The products have been identified by high performance liquid chromatography of DNA hydrolysates and by the selective release of free 3-methyladenine from SAM-treated DNA by a specific DNA glycosylase. We conclude that SAM acts as a weak DNA-alkylating agent. Several control experiments including extensive purification of [3H-methyl]SAM preparations and elimination of the alkylating activity by pretreatment of SAM with a phage T3-induced SAM cleaving enzyme, have been performed to determine that the activity observed was due to SAM itself and not to a contaminating substance. We estimate that SAM, at an intracellular concentration of 4 X 10(-5) M, causes DNA alkylation at a level similar to that expected from continuous exposure of cells to 2 X 10(-8) M methyl methane-sulphonate. This ability of SAM to act as a methyl donor in a nonenzymatic reaction could result in a background of mutagenesis and carcinogenesis. The data provide an explanation for the apparently universal occurrence of multiple DNA repair enzymes specific for methylation damage.[1]


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