Aqueous solutions of calf thymus deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) were exposed to hydrogen peroxide in the presence of air. Base products formed in DNA were identified and quantitated following acid hydrolysis and trimethylsilylation using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The yields of these products were dependent upon the hydrogen peroxide concentration, and increased in the following order: 8-hydroxyadenine, cytosine glycol, 2,6-diamino-4-hydroxy-5-formamidopyrimidine, 8-hydroxyguanine, thymine glycol, and 4,6-diamino-5-formamidopyrimidine. Previous studies have shown that these compounds are typically formed in DNA in aqueous solution by hydroxyl radicals generated by ionizing radiation. Hydrogen peroxide is thought to participate in a Fenton-like reaction with transition metals, which are readily bound to DNA in trace quantities, resulting in the production of hydroxyl radicals close to the DNA. This proposed mechanism was examined by exposing DNA to hydrogen peroxide either in the presence of a hydroxyl radical scavenger or following pretreatment of DNA with metal-ion chelators. The results indicate that trace quantities of transition metal ions can react readily with hydrogen peroxide to produce radical species. The production of radical species was monitored by determining the altered bases that resulted from the reaction between radicals and DNA. The yields of the base products were reduced by 40 to 60% with 10 mmol <tex-math>${\rm dm}^{-3}$</tex-math> of dimethyl sulfoxide. A 100-fold increase in the concentration of dimethyl sulfoxide did not result in a further reduction in hydrogen peroxide-induced base damage. DNA which was freed from bound metal ions by pretreatment with metal ion chelators followed by exhaustive dialysis was found to be an ineffective substrate for hydrogen peroxide. The yields of base products measured in this DNA were at background levels. These results support the role of metal ions bound to DNA in the site-specific formation of highly reactive radical species, most likely hydroxyl radicals, in hydrogen peroxide-induced damage to the bases in DNA.

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