Sharma, K. K. K., Milligan, J. R. and Bernhard, W. A. Multiplicity of DNA Single-Strand Breaks Produced in pUC18 Exposed to the Direct Effects of Ionizing Radiation. Radiat. Res. 170, 156–162 (2008).
The transition of plasmid DNA from a supercoiled to an open circle conformation, as detected by gel electrophoresis, affords an extraordinarily sensitive method for detecting single-strand breaks (SSBs), one measure of deoxyribose damage. To determine the yield of SSBs, G(ssb), by this method, it is commonly assumed that Poisson statistics apply such that, on average, one SSB occurs per supercoiled plasmid lost. For the direct effect, at a large enough plasmid size, this assumption may be invalid. In this report, the assumption that one SSB occurs per pUC18 plasmid (2686 bp) is tested by measuring free base release (fbr), which is also a measure of deoxyribose damage in films prepared under controlled relative humidity so as to produce known levels of DNA hydration. The level of DNA hydration, Γ, is expressed in mol water/mol nucleotide. The yield of free base release, G(fbr), was measured by HPLC after exposure of the films to 70 kV X rays and subsequent dissolution in water. It is well known that damage in deoxyribose leads to SSBs and free base release. Based on known mechanisms, there exists a close correspondence between free base release and SSBs, i.e., G(fbr) ≅ G(ssb). Following this assumption, the SSB multiplicity, m(ssb), was determined, where m(ssb) was defined as the mean number of SSBs per supercoiled plasmid lost. The yield of lost supercoil was determined previously (S. Purkayastha et al., J. Phys. Chem. B 110, 26286–26291, 2006). We found that m(ssb) = 1.4 ± 0.2 at Γ = 2.5 and m(ssb) = 2.8 ± 0.5 to 3.1 ± 0.5 at Γ = 22.5, indicating that the assumption of one SSB per lost supercoil is not likely to hold for a 2686-bp plasmid exposed to the direct effect. In addition, an increase in G(fbr), upon stepping from Γ = 2.5 to Γ = 22.5, was paralleled by an increase in the yield of trapped deoxyribose radicals, GdRib(fr), also measured previously. As a consequence, the shortfall between SSBs and trapped radicals, G(diff) = G(ssb) − GdRib(fr), remained relatively constant at 90–110 nmol/J. The lack of change between the two extremes of hydration is in keeping with the suggestion that non-radical species, such as doubly oxidized deoxyribose, are responsible for the shortfall.