This investigation was designed to determine whether the cytotoxic effects of different restriction endonucleases are related to the number and type of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) they produce. Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) K1 and xrs-5 cells, a radiosensitive mutant of CHO K1, were exposed to restriction endonucleases HaeIII, HinfI, PvuII and BamHI by electroporation. These enzymes represent both blunt and sticky end cutters with differing recognition sequence lengths. The number of DSBs was measured by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Two forms of PFGE were employed: asymmetric field-inversion gel electrophoresis (AFIGE) for measuring the kinetics of DNA breaks by enzyme digestion and clamped homogeneous gel electrophoresis (CHEF) for examining the size distributions of damaged DNA. The amount of DNA damage induced by exposure to all four restriction enzymes was significantly greater in xrs-5 compared to CHO K1 cells, consistent with the reported DSB repair deficiency in these cells. Since restriction endonucleases produce DSBs alone as opposed to the various types of DNA damage induced by X rays, these results confirm that the repair defect in this mutant involves the rejoining of DSBs. Although the cutting frequency was directly related to the length of the recognition sequence for four restriction enzymes, there was no simple correlation between the cytotoxic effect and the amount of DNA damage produced by each enzyme in either cell line. This finding suggests that the type or nature of the cutting sequence itself may play a role in restriction enzyme-induced cell killing.

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