Hn

Xanthine

(a) Deamination

FIGURE 8-33 Some well-characterized nonenzymatic reactions of nucleotides. (a) Deamination reactions. Only the base is shown. (b) Depurination, in which a purine is lost by hydrolysis of the N-fi-glycosyl bond. The deoxyribose remaining after depurination is readily converted from the fi-furanose to the aldehyde form (see Fig. 8-3). Further nonenzymatic reactions are illustrated in Figures 8-34 and 8-35.

FIGURE 8-33 Some well-characterized nonenzymatic reactions of nucleotides. (a) Deamination reactions. Only the base is shown. (b) Depurination, in which a purine is lost by hydrolysis of the N-fi-glycosyl bond. The deoxyribose remaining after depurination is readily converted from the fi-furanose to the aldehyde form (see Fig. 8-3). Further nonenzymatic reactions are illustrated in Figures 8-34 and 8-35.

cellular conditions. Depurination of ribonucleotides and RNA is much slower and generally is not considered physiologically significant. In the test tube, loss of purines can be accelerated by dilute acid. Incubation of DNA at pH 3 causes selective removal of the purine bases, resulting in a derivative called apurinic acid.

Other reactions are promoted by radiation. UV light induces the condensation of two ethylene groups to form a cyclobutane ring. In the cell, the same reaction between adjacent pyrimidine bases in nucleic acids forms cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers. This happens most frequently between adjacent thymidine residues on the same DNA strand (Fig. 8-34). A second type of pyrimidine dimer, called a 6-4 photoproduct, is also formed during UV irradiation. Ionizing radiation (x rays and gamma rays) can cause ring opening and fragmentation of bases as well as breaks in the covalent backbone of nucleic acids.

Virtually all forms of life are exposed to energy-rich radiation capable of causing chemical changes in DNA. Near-UV radiation (with wavelengths of 200 to 400 nm), which makes up a significant portion of the solar spectrum, is known to cause pyrimidine dimer formation and other chemical changes in the DNA of bacteria and of human skin cells. We are subject to a constant field of ionizing radiation in the form of cosmic rays, which can penetrate deep into the earth, as well as radiation emitted from radioactive elements, such as radium, plutonium, uranium, radon, 14C, and 3H. X rays used in medical and dental examinations and in radiation therapy of cancer and other diseases are another form of ionizing radiation. It is estimated that UV and ionizing radiations are responsible for about 10% of all DNA damage caused by environmental agents.

DNA also may be damaged by reactive chemicals introduced into the environment as products of industrial activity. Such products may not be injurious per se but may be metabolized by cells into forms that are. Two prominent classes of such agents (Fig. 8-35) are (1) deaminating agents, particularly nitrous acid (HNO2) or compounds that can be metabolized to nitrous acid or nitrites, and (2) alkylating agents.

Nitrous acid, formed from organic precursors such as nitrosamines and from nitrite and nitrate salts, is a potent accelerator of the deamination of bases. Bisulfite has similar effects. Both agents are used as preservatives in processed foods to prevent the growth of toxic bacteria. They do not appear to increase cancer risks

yC-N

yC-N

Adjacent thymines

FIGURE 8-34 Formation of pyrimidine dimers induced by UV light. (a) One type of reaction (on the left) results in the formation of a cyclobutyl ring involving C-5 and C-6 of adjacent pyrimidine residues. An alternative reaction (on the right) results in a 6-4 photoproduct, with a linkage between C-6 of one pyrimidine and C-4 of its neighbor. (b) Formation of a cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer introduces a bend or kink into the DNA.

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