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The yields of gamma-radiation-induced single- and double-strand breaks (ssb's and dsb's) as well as base lesions, which are converted into detectable ssb by the base excision repair enzymes endonuclease III (Nth) and formamidopyrimidine-DNA glycosylase (Fpg), at 278 K have been measured as a function of the level of hydration of closed-circular plasmid DNA (pUC18) films. The yields of ssb and dsb increase slightly on increasing the level of hydration (Gamma) from vacuum-dried DNA up to DNA containing 15 mol of water per mole of nucleotide. At higher levels of hydration (15 < Gamma < 35), the yields are constant, indicating that H2O*+ or diffusible hydroxyl radicals, if produced in the hydrated layer, do not contribute significantly to the induction of strand breaks. In contrast, the yields of base lesions, recognized by Nth and Fpg, increase with increasing hydration of the DNA over the range studied. The maximum ratios of the yields of base lesions to that of ssb are 1.7:1 and 1.4:1 for Nth- and Fpg-sensitive sites, respectively. The yields of additional dsb, revealed after enzymatic treatment, increase with increasing level of hydration of DNA. The maximum yield of these enzymatically induced dsb is almost the same as that for prompt, radiation-induced dsb's, indicating that certain types of enzymatically revealed, clustered DNA damage, e.g., two or more lesions closely located, one on each DNA strand, are induced in hydrated DNA by radiation. It is proposed that direct energy deposition in the hydration layer of DNA produces H2O*+ and an electron, which react with DNA to produce mainly base lesions but not ssb. The nucleobases are oxidized by H2O*+ in competition with its conversion to hydroxyl radicals, which if formed do not produce ssb's, presumably due to their scavenging by Tris present in the samples. This pathway plays an important role in the induction of base lesions and clustered DNA damage by direct energy deposition in hydrated DNA and is important in understanding the processes that lead to radiation degradation of DNA in cells or biological samples.


Journal article


J Am Chem Soc

Publication Date





8859 - 8866


DNA Damage, DNA, Bacterial, DNA-Formamidopyrimidine Glycosylase, Deoxyribonuclease (Pyrimidine Dimer), Endodeoxyribonucleases, Escherichia coli Proteins, Gamma Rays, N-Glycosyl Hydrolases, Plasmids, Water