The DNA of all organisms is constantly damaged by oxidation. Among the array of damage products is 5-hydroxymethyluracil, derived from oxidation of the thymine methyl group. Previous studies have established that HmU can be a sensitive and valuable marker of DNA damage. More recently, the corresponding deoxynucleoside, 5-hydroxymethyl-2′-deoxyuridine (HmdU), has proven to be valuable for the introduction of controlled amounts of a single type of damage lesion into the DNA of replicating cells, which is subsequently repaired by the base excision repair pathway. Complicating the study of HmU formation and repair, however, is the known chemical reactivity of the hydroxymethyl group of HmU under conditions used to hydrolyze DNA. In the work reported here, this chemical property has been exploited by creating conditions that convert HmU to the corresponding methoxymethyluracil (MmU) derivative that can be further derivatized to the 3,5-bis-(trifluoromethyl)benzyl analogue. This derivatized compound can be detected by gas chromatography-negative chemical ionization-mass spectrometry (GC-NCI-MS) with good sensitivity. Using isotopically enriched exogenous HmdU and human osteosarcoma cells (U2OS) in culture, we demonstrate that this method allows for the measurement of HmU in DNA formed from the incorporation of exogenous HmdU. We further demonstrate that the addition of isotopically enriched uridine to the culture medium allows for the simultaneous measurement of DNA replication and repair kinetics. This sensitive and facile method should prove valuable for studies on DNA oxidation damage and repair in living cells.
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