Alkylation damage causes MMR-dependent chromosomal instability in vertebrate embryos.

H. Feitsma, A. Akay, E. Cuppen

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


S(N)1-type alkylating agents, like N-methyl-N-nitrosourea (MNU) and N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU), are potent mutagens. Exposure to alkylating agents gives rise to O(6)-alkylguanine, a modified base that is recognized by DNA mismatch repair (MMR) proteins but is not repairable, resulting in replication fork stalling and cell death. We used a somatic mutation detection assay to study the in vivo effects of alkylation damage on lethality and mutation frequency in developing zebrafish embryos. Consistent with the damage-sensing role of the MMR system, mutant embryos lacking the MMR enzyme MSH6 displayed lower lethality than wild-type embryos after exposure to ENU and MNU. In line with this, alkylation-induced somatic mutation frequencies were found to be higher in wild-type embryos than in the msh6 loss-of-function mutants. These mutations were found to be chromosomal aberrations that may be caused by chromosomal breaks that arise from stalled replication forks. As these chromosomal breaks arise at replication, they are not expected to be repaired by non-homologous end joining. Indeed, Ku70 loss-of-function mutants were found to be equally sensitive to ENU as wild-type embryos. Taken together, our results suggest that in vivo alkylation damage results in chromosomal instability and cell death due to aberrantly processed MMR-induced stalled replication forks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4047-4056
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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