Lack of recognition by global-genome nucleotide excision repair accounts for the high mutagenicity and persistence of aristolactam-DNA adducts

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Exposure to aristolochic acid (AA), a component of Aristolochia plants used in herbal remedies, is associated with chronic kidney disease and urothelial carcinomas of the upper urinary tract. Following metabolic activation, AA reacts with dA and dG residues in DNA to form aristolactam (AL)-DNA adducts. These mutagenic lesions generate a unique TP53 mutation spectrum, dominated by A : T to T : A transversions with mutations at dA residues located almost exclusively on the non-transcribed strand. We determined the level of AL-dA adducts in human fibroblasts treated with AA to determine if this marked strand bias could be accounted for by selective resistance to global-genome nucleotide excision repair (GG-NER). AL-dA adduct levels were elevated in cells deficient in GG-NER and transcription-coupled NER, but not in XPC cell lines lacking GG-NER only. In vitro, plasmids containing a single AL-dA adduct were resistant to the early recognition and incision steps of NER. Additionally, the NER damage sensor, XPC-RAD23B, failed to specifically bind to AL-DNA adducts. However, placing AL-dA in mismatched sequences promotes XPC-RAD23B binding and renders this adduct susceptible to NER, suggesting that specific structural features of this adduct prevent processing by NER. We conclude that AL-dA adducts are not recognized by GG-NER, explaining their high mutagenicity and persistence in target tissues.

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