Analysis of heat-labile sites generated by reactions of depleted uranium and ascorbate in plasmid DNA

Janice Wilson, Ashley Young, Edgar R. Civitello, Diane M. Stearns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The goal of this study was to characterize how depleted uranium (DU) causes DNA damage. Procedures were developed to assess the ability of organic and inorganic DNA adducts to convert to single-strand breaks (SSB) in pBR322 plasmid DNA in the presence of heat or piperidine. DNA adducts formed by methyl methanesulfonate, cisplatin, and chromic chloride were compared with those formed by reaction of uranyl acetate and ascorbate. Uranyl ion in the presence of ascorbate produced U-DNA adducts that converted to SSB on heating. Piperidine, which acted on DNA methylated by methyl methanesulfonate to convert methyl-DNA adducts to SSB, served in the opposite fashion as U-DNA adducts by decreasing the level of SSB. The observation that piperidine also decreased the gel shift for metal-DNA adducts formed by monofunctional cisplatin and chromic chloride was interpreted to suggest that piperidine served to remove U-DNA adducts. Radical scavengers did not affect the formation of uranium-induced SSB, suggesting that SSB arose from the presence of U-DNA adducts and not from the presence of free radicals. A model is proposed to predict how U-DNA adducts may serve as initial lesions that convert to SSB or AP sites. The results suggest that DU can act as a chemical genotoxin that does not require radiation for its mode of action. Characterizing the DNA lesions formed by DU is necessary to assess the relative importance of different DNA lesions in the formation of DU-induced mutations. Understanding the mechanisms of formation of DU-induced mutations may contribute to identification of biomarkers of DU exposure in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-57
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Inorganic Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • DNA damage
  • Depleted uranium
  • Gel electrophoresis
  • Heavy metal
  • pBR322 plasmid DNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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