The effect of human O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) on the cytotoxicity, the mutagenicity, and the specific kinds of base substitutions induced by N-methyl-N′-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG) were examined in non-MGMT transfected Chinese hamster ovary cells (CHOM cells) and in those cells which had been transfected with human MGMT complementary DNA (AGT cells). AGT cells containing a high level of human MGMT activity were markedly more resistant to the cytotoxic and mutagenic effects of MNNG than CHOM cells which had no detectable MGMT activity. The dosages of MNNG which reduced to 50% of colony forming ability were estimated to be 0.8 µm for CHOM and 10 µm for AGT cells. The induction frequency of 6-thioguanine-resistant cells was significantly declined in AGT cells. At 4 µm MNNG, this frequency was declined from 273 mutants/106 viable CHOM cells to 13 mutants/106 viable AGT cells. The entire coding region of the hypoxanthine (guanine) phosphoribosyltransferase (hprt) gene in 37 AGT and 22 CHOM mutants was characterized by direct sequencing of the mRNA-polymerase chain reaction-amplified complementary DNA. Base changes at the intron-exon boundaries of the hprt DNA in the splicing mutants were further examined. Those results indicated that G to A transitions were significantly reduced in MNNG-treated AGT cells x2 test, P < 0.001), suggesting that O6-methylguanine was repaired error free by human MGMT. In contrast, no difference arose in the frequencies of T to C transitions induced by MNNG in these two populations. All of the G to A transitions induced in AGT cells were located on the nontranscribed strand, assuming that the causative lesion was O6-methylguanine (P < 0.05). Such a strand specificity was not observed in CHOM mutants. Most of the G to A transitions observed in CHOM mutants were located at the middle guanine of 5′-GGPu sequences. Transitions observed at these sites, particularly 5′-GGG, were significantly reduced in AGT mutants (P < 0.05). Our results have suggested that human MGMT specifically repairs O6-methylguanine with a preference to remove those located on the transcribed strand and middle guanine of 5′-GGG.

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This research was supported by Grant NSC 83-0203-B-007-076 from the National Science Council, Republic of China.

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