Cross-linking by epichlorohydrin and diepoxybutane correlates with cytotoxicity and leads to apoptosis in human leukemia (HL-60) cells

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Abstract

The bifunctional alkylating agents epichlorohydrin (ECH) and diepoxybutane (DEB) have been linked to increased cancer risks in industrial workers. These compounds react with DNA and proteins, leading to genotoxic effects. We used the comet assay to monitor formation of cross-links in HL-60 cells treated with ECH, DEB, and the structurally related anti-cancer drug mechlorethamine (HN2). We report a time- and dose-dependent cytotoxicity that correlated with cross-linking activity, following the order HN2 > DEB > ECH. The rate of cross-link repair also varied with drug, with ECH-induced lesions the fastest to repair. High drug doses led to the formation of saturating amounts of HN2 cross-links that were repaired inefficiently. DEB and ECH produced fewer overall cross-links, but some were also resistant to repair. These persistent cross-links may activate cell-cycle arrest to allow repair of damage, with prolonged arrest triggering apoptosis. Quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction experiments revealed that treatment of HL-60 cells with DEB and ECH results in up-regulation of several genes involved in the intrinsic (mitochondrial) apoptosis pathway, including BAX, BAK1, CASP-9, APAF-1, and BCL-2. These findings contribute to our understanding of the principles underlying the carcinogenic potentials of these xenobiotics.

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