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Guanidine-reactive agent phenylglyoxal induces DNA damage and cancer cell death

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Caroline AustinORCiD, Dr Miguel Lopez-Lazaro


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Background: DNA-damaging compounds (e.g., alkylating agents, cytotoxic antibiotics and DNA topoisomerase poisons) are the most widely used anticancer drugs. The inability of tumor cells to properly repair some types of DNA damage may explain why specific DNA-damaging drugs can selectively kill tumor cells. Phenylglyoxal is a dicarbonyl compound known to react with guanidine groups such as that of the DNA base guanine, therefore suggesting that phenylglyoxal could induce DNA damage and have anticancer activity.Methods: Cellular DNA damage was measured by the alkaline comet assay and the gamma H2AX focus assay. Formation of topoisomerase I- and topoisomerase II-DNA complexes was assessed by the TARDIS assay, an immunofluorescence technique that employs specific antibodies to DNA topo I or topo II to detect the protein covalently bound to the DNA in individual cells. Cell growth inhibition and cytotoxicity were determined by XTT, MTT and clonogenic assays. Apoptosis was assessed by the Annexin V flow cytometry assay.Results: Phenylglyoxal induced cellular DNA damage and formation of high levels of topoisomerase I- and topoisomerase II-DNA complexes in cells. These topoisomerase-DNA complexes were abolished by catalase pretreatment and correlated well with the induction of apoptosis. Phenylglyoxal-induced cell death was partially prevented by catalase pretreatment and was higher in lung cancer cells (A549) than in normal lung fibroblasts (MRC5). Mammalian cell lines defective in nucleotide excision repair (NER), homologous recombination (HR) and non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) were more sensitive to phenylglyoxal than parental cells; this suggests that phenylglyoxal may induce bulky distortions in the shape of the DNA double helix (which are repaired by the NER pathway) and DNA double-strand breaks (which are repaired by HR and NHEJ).Conclusion: This report shows that phenylglyoxal is a new DNA-damaging agent with anticancer activity, and suggests that tumor cells with defects in NER, HR and NHEJ may be hypersensitive to the cytotoxic activity of phenylglyoxal.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Calderon-Montano JM, Burgos-Moron E, Orta ML, Pastor N, Perez-Guerrero C, Austin CA, Mateos S, Lopez-Lazaro M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Pharmacological Reports

Year: 2012

Volume: 64

Issue: 6

Pages: 1515-1525

Print publication date: 01/11/2012

ISSN (print): 1734-1140

Publisher: Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Pharmacology


DOI: 10.1016/S1734-1140(12)70949-0


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Funder referenceFunder name
Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research
Newcastle University
University of Seville
MCFI-2002-01661Marie Curie Individual Fellowship