Use of the Comet assay to investigate the role of superoxide in glutathione-induced DNA damage.
Although glutathione is an important scavenging molecule within the cell, it can also act as a pro-oxidant and at biological concentrations (1 mM) can induce DNA damage. We have used a sensitive cell-free Comet assay for DNA strand breakage to investigate this damage and to try to determine the active species involved. We show a substantial protection against glutathione-mediated DNA damage by superoxide dismutase (200 U/ml) and complete protection by combined superoxide dismutase and catalase. Damage is also prevented by EDTA but only at 100 mM and is not prevented by the chelating agent diethylenetriamine-pentaacetic acid (100 microM). Although superoxide is known to potentiate DNA damage by other reactive species, none of these indirect mechanisms seem to account for our results and it is possible that superoxide may damage DNA directly. Under the same experimental conditions, S-nitrosoglutathione requires ultraviolet A photolysis to cause DNA strand breakage and superoxide dismutase increases the level of this damage. When intact human lymphocytes are incubated with glutathione (1 mM) in phosphate buffer, DNA damage is also observed, but in this case it is completely preventable by catalase, with no protective effect of superoxide dismutase. Since cellular scavenging systems are not completely protective against reactive species formed from autooxidation of extracellular glutathione and since glutathione and oxygen are ubiquitously present within cells, our results imply that cells may have a mechanism of preventing autooxidation, rather than simply relying on scavenging the reactive species formula.
Thomas, S; Lowe, JE; Hadjivassiliou, V; Knowles, RG; Green, IC; Green, MH
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