Aristolochic acid (AA) causes aristolochic acid nephropathy (AAN), first described in women in Belgium accidently prescribedAristolochia fangchiin a slimming treatment, and also Balkan endemic nephropathy (BEN), through probable dietary contamination withAristolochia clematitisseeds. Both nephropathies have a high risk of urothelial cancer, with AA being the causative agent. In tissues of AAN and BEN patients, a distinct DNA adduct, 7-(deoxyadenosin-N6-yl)-aristolactam I (dA-AAI), has been detected. DNA adducts can be removed through DNA repair, they can result in mutations through erroneous DNA replication or they can cause cell death. The dA-AAI adduct induces AT to TA transversions in the tumor-suppressorTP53gene in experimental systems, matchingTP53mutations observed in urothelial tumors from AAN cancer cases. Using thin-layer chromatography 32P-postlabeling and mass spectrometric analysis we report the detection of dA-AAI in renal DNA from 11 Belgian AAN patients over 20 years after exposure to AA had ceased. Our results showed that dA-AAI is an established biomarker of AA exposure, and that this biomarker can be demonstrated to be persistent decades after a distinct AA exposure. Further, the persistence of dA-AAI adducts appears to be a critical determinant for the AA mutational fingerprint frequently found in oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes recently identified by whole genome sequencing of AA-associated urothelial tumors. The potential for exposure to AA worldwide is high; the unprecedented long-term persistence of dA-AAI provides a useful long-term biomarker of exposure and attests to the role of AA in human urothelial malignancy.What's new?
Aristolochic acid (AA), present in Aristolochia-derived herbal drugs frequently used in traditional Chinese medicine, can cause aristolochic acid nephropathy and urothelial cancer. The true extent of AA exposure is unknown as reliable biomarkers are missing. This study demonstrates that premutagenic AA-DNA adducts, specifically 7-(deoxyadenosin-N6-yl)-aristolactam I adducts, have an exceptionally long-term persistence in the renal DNA of aristolochic acid nephropathy patients and thus can serve as biomarkers to assess exposure to AA, even decades later.