The induction of base damage products in γ-irradiated DNA, hydrated between 2.5 and 32.8 moles of water per mole of nucleotide (Γ), was investigated using the gas chromatography/mass spectrometry-selected ion monitoring technique. In general, the yields of the measured base damage products were found to be dependent on the extent of the hydration when the DNA was irradiated under nitrogen. At low hydrations (Γ ≤ 13), the highest yields of the measured products were found for 7,8-dihydro-8-oxo-guanine, 5,6-dihydrothymine and, to a lesser extent, 2,6-diamino-4-oxo-5-formamidopyrimidine, products which are consistent with the base radicals found in low-temperature ESR studies. At higher hydrations (Γ ≤ 13), changes in DNA conformation and an increase in the attack of bulk water radicals on DNA play a significant role in the formation of radiation-induced DNA base damage products. Additional findings in our study include: (1) the sum of the yields of the products formed from electron-loss centers is greater than the sum of the yields of the products formed from electron-gain centers, indicating that there might be other electron-gain products which have not been identified; (2) the combined yield for the base damage products and the release of unaltered bases at Γ ≤ 13 is constant, implying that radiation damage in the tightly bound water molecules of the primary hydration layer causes DNA damage (quasi-direct effect) that is similar to the damage caused by direct ionization of the DNA (direct effect); and (3) the yields of the individual base damage products that were formed from electron-loss centers can be modeled on the basis of both the known reactions that lead to the formation of the initial charged base radicals in irradiated DNA, and the known reactions that involve the conversion of these initial DNA radicals into their respective nonradical end products.

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