The induction and closure of double-strand breaks produced by X rays were measured in the replicating DNA of HeLa S3 cells using the techniques of neutral (pH 7.2) filter elution and pulsed-field agarose gel electrophoresis. In whole cell DNA the apparent yield of double-strand breaks in pulse-labeled DNA was approximately half that observed in bulk DNA as estimated by both techniques. In contrast, when nuclear DNA was reduced to sub-replicon-cluster lengths prior to irradiation, the yield of radiation-induced double-strand breaks was the same in both replicating and bulk DNA. During incubation of pulse-labeled whole cells at 37°C, the sensitivity of pulse-labeled DNA to strand break induction approached that observed in bulk DNA with a half-time of approximately 105 min. The results indicate that double-strand breaks are produced at a similar frequency per DNA mass in both replicating and bulk DNA. The structure of replicating DNA obscures length reduction in whole cell DNA when estimated by either filter elution or gel electrophoresis. Closure of double-strand breaks proceeded at a similar rate in both replicating and bulk DNA.

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