We measured the yield and spectrum of strand breaks and nucleobase lesions produced in fully hydrated plasmid DNA films to determine the linear energy transfer (LET) dependence of DNA damage induced by ion-beam irradiation in relation to the change in the atomic number of ions. The yield of isolated damage was revealed as a decrease in prompt SSBs with increasing LET of He2+, C5+,6+ and Ne8+,10+ ions. On the other hand, the yields of prompt DSBs increased with increasing ion LET. SSBs were additionally induced in ion-irradiated DNA film by treatment with two kinds of base excision repair proteins (glycosylases), Nth and Fpg, indicating that base lesions are produced in the hydrated DNA film. This result shows that nucleobase lesions are produced via both chemical reactions with diffusible water radicals, such as OH radicals, and direct energy deposition onto DNA and the hydrated water layer. Nth-sensitive sites deduced to be pyrimidine lesions, such as 5,6-dihydrothymine (DHT), showed a relatively larger yield than Fpg-sensitive sites deduced to be purine lesions, such as 7,8-dihydro-8-oxo-2′deoxyguanine (8-oxoGua), for all ion exposures tested. The yield of SSBs or DSBs observed by enzyme treatment decreased noticeably with increasing LET for all tested ions. These results indicated that higher-LET ions preferentially produce a complex type of damage that might compromise the activities of the glycosylases used in this study. These findings are biologically important since, under cell mimicking conditions, persistent DNA damage occurs in part due to direct energy deposition on the DNA or hydrated water shell that is specifically induced by dense ionization in the track.

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