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DNA damage (naturally occurring)

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DNA damage (naturally occurring)

DNA damage is an alteration in the chemical structure of DNA, such as a break in a strand of DNA, a base missing from the backbone of DNA, or a chemically changed base such as 8-OHdG. Damage to DNA that occurs naturally can result from metabolic or hydrolytic processes. Metabolism releases compounds that damage DNA including reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, reactive carbonyl species, lipid peroxidation products and alkylating agents, among others, while hydrolysis cleaves chemical bonds in DNA.[1] Naturally occurring DNA damages arise more than 60,000 times per day per mammalian cell,[2] and as documented below.

DNA damage is distinctly different from mutation, although both are types of error in DNA. DNA damage is an abnormal chemical structure in DNA, while a mutation is a change in the sequence of standard base pairs.

DNA damage and mutation have different biological consequences. While most DNA damages can undergo DNA repair, such repair is not 100% efficient. Un-repaired DNA damages accumulate in non-replicating cells, such as cells in the brains or muscles of adult mammals and can cause aging.[3][4][5] (Also see DNA damage theory of aging.) In replicating cells, such as cells lining the colon, errors occur upon replication of past damages in the template strand of DNA or during repair of DNA damages. These errors can give rise to mutations or epigenetic alterations.[6] Both of these types of alteration can be replicated and passed on to subsequent cell generations. These alterations can change gene function or regulation of gene expression and possibly contribute to progression to cancer.

DNA damages are a major problem for life

One indication that DNA damages are a major problem for life is that DNA repair processes, to cope with ubiquitously occurring DNA damages, have been found in all cellular organisms in which DNA repair has been investigated. For example, in bacteria, a regulatory network aimed at repairing DNA damages (called the SOS response in Escherichia coli) has been found in many bacterial species. E. coli RecA, a key enzyme in the SOS response pathway, is the defining member of a ubiquitous class of DNA strand-exchange proteins that are essential for homologous recombination, a pathway that maintains genomic integrity by repairing broken DNA.[7] Genes homologous to RecA and to other central genes in the SOS response pathway are found in almost all the bacterial genomes sequenced to date, covering a large number of phyla, suggesting both an ancient origin and a widespread occurrence of recombinational repair of DNA damage.[8] [9][10]

Another indication that DNA damages are a major problem for life is that cells make large investments in DNA repair processes. As pointed out by Hoeijmakers,[4] repairing just one double-strand break could require more than 10,000 ATP molecules, as used in signaling the presence of the damage, the generation of repair foci, and the formation (in humans) of the RAD51 nucleofilament (an intermediate in homologous recombinational repair). (RAD51 is a homologue of bacterial RecA.)

Frequencies of endogenous DNA damages

The list below shows some frequencies with which new naturally occurring DNA damages arise per day, due to endogenous cellular processes.

  • Oxidative damages
    • Humans, per cell per day
      • 10,000[11]
        2,800[13] specific damages 8-oxoGua, 8-oxodG plus 5-HMUra
        2,800[14] specific damages 8-oxoGua, 8-oxodG plus 5-HMUra
    • Rats, per cell per day
    • Mice, per cell per day
      • 34,000[13] specific damages 8-oxoGua, 8-oxodG plus 5-HMUra
        47,000[16] specific damages oxo8dG in mouse liver
        28,000[14] specific damages 8-oxoGua, 8-oxodG, 5-HMUra
  • Depurinations
  • Depyrimidinations
    • Mammalian cells, per cell per day
  • Single-strand breaks
    • Mammalian cells, per cell per day
  • Double-strand breaks
    • Human cells, per cell cycle
  • O6-methylguanines
    • Mammalian cells, per cell per day
  • Cytosine deamination
    • Mammalian cells, per cell per day

Another important endogenous DNA damage is M1dG, short for (3-(2'-deoxy-beta-D-erythro-pentofuranosyl)-pyrimido[1,2-a]-purin-10(3H)-one). The excretion in urine (likely reflecting rate of occurrence) of M1dG may be as much as 1,000-fold lower than that of 8-oxodG.[24] However, a more important measure may be the steady-state level in DNA, reflecting both rate of occurrence and rate of DNA repair. The steady-state level of M1dG is higher than that of 8-oxodG.[25] This points out that some DNA damages produced at a low rate may be difficult to repair and remain in DNA at a high steady-state level. Both M1dG[26] and 8-oxodG[27] are mutagenic.

Steady-state levels of DNA damages

Steady-state levels of DNA damages represent the balance between formation and repair. More than 100 types of oxidative DNA damage have been characterized, and 8-oxodG constitutes about 5% of the steady state oxidative damages in DNA.[28] Helbock et al.[29] estimated that there were 24,000 steady state oxidative DNA adducts per cell in young rats and 66,000 adducts per cell in old rats. This reflects the accumulation of DNA damage with age. DNA damage accumulation with age is further described in DNA damage theory of aging.

Swenberg et al.[30] measured average amounts of selected steady state endogenous DNA damages in mammalian cells. The seven most common damages they evaluated are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Steady-state amounts of endogenous DNA damages
Endogenous lesions Number per cell
Abasic sites 30,000
N7-(2-hydroxethyl)guanine (7HEG) 3,000
8-hydroxyguanine 2,400
7-(2-oxoethyl)guanine 1,500
Formaldehyde adducts 960
Acrolein-deoxyguanine 120
Malondialdehyde-deoxyguanine 60

Evaluating steady-state damages in specific tissues of the rat, Nakamura and Swenberg[31] indicated that the number of abasic sites varied from about 50,000 per cell in liver, kidney and lung to about 200,000 per cell in the brain.

Consequences of naturally occurring DNA damages

Differentiated somatic cells of adult mammals generally replicate infrequently or not at all. Such cells, including, for example, brain neurons and muscle myocytes, have little or no cell turnover. Non-replicating cells do not generally generate mutations due to DNA damage-induced errors of replication. These non-replicating cells do not commonly give rise to cancer, but they do accumulate DNA damages with time that likely contribute to aging (see DNA damage theory of aging). In a non-replicating cell, a single-strand break or other type of damage in the transcribed strand of DNA can block RNA polymerase II catalysed transcription.[32] This would interfere with the synthesis of the protein coded for by the gene in which the blockage occurred.

Brasnjevic et al.[33] summarized the evidence showing that single-strand breaks accumulate with age in the brain (though accumulation differed in different regions of the brain) and that single-strand breaks are the most frequent steady-state DNA damages in the brain. As discussed above, these accumulated single-strand breaks would be expected to block transcription of genes. Consistent with this, as reviewed by Hetman et al.,[34] 182 genes were identified and shown to have reduced transcription in the brains of individuals older than 72 years, compared to transcription in the brains of those less than 43 years old. When 40 particular proteins were evaluated in a muscle of rats, the majority of the proteins showed significant decreases during aging from 18 months (mature rat) to 30 months (aged rat) of age.[35]

Another type of DNA damage, the double strand break, was shown to cause cell death (loss of cells) through apoptosis.[36] This type of DNA damage would not accumulate with age, since once a cell was lost through apoptosis, its double strand damage would be lost with it.

See also


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