Inducibility of the DNA repair gene encoding O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase in mammalian cells by DNA-damaging treatments

Gerhard Fritz, Keizo Tano, Sankar Mitra, Bernd Kaina

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130 Scopus citations


The inducibility of the mammalian O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) gene encoding the MGMT protein (EC responsible for removal of the procarcinogenic and promutagenic lesion O6-alkylguanine from DNA was examined by an analysis of transcription of the MGMT gene following exposure of repair-competent (Mex+) and repair-deficient (Mex-) cells to N-methyl-N′-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG). While human and rodent Mex- cells (CHO-9, V79, HeLa MR) showed no detectable MGMT mRNA despite the presence of the gene in their genome, the amount of it in several Mex+ lines (NIH 3T3, HeLa S3, HepG2) paralleled their MGMT activity. However, none of these cell lines showed an increase in the MGMT mRNA level after treatment with various concentrations of MNNG. In contrast, MNNG-treated rat hepatoma cells, H4IIE and FTO-2B, both Mex+, had three- to fivefold more MGMT mRNA than the corresponding untreated controls as measured 12 to 72 h after alkylation. N-Methyl-N-nitrosourea, methyl methanesulfonate, N-hydroxyethyl-N-chloroethylnitrosourea, UV light, and X rays caused a similar accumulation of MGMT mRNA in rat hepatoma cells. Studies with inhibitors of RNA and protein synthesis indicate that the induced increase in the amount of MGMT mRNA was due to enhanced transcription of the gene. Furthermore, they revealed the turnover of the MGMT mRNA to be relatively low (half-life, >7 h). Mutagen-induced increase of transcription of MGMT mRNA in H4IIE cells was accompanied by elevation of MGMT repair activity and resulted in reduction of mutation frequency after a challenge dose of MNNG. Although induction of MGMT mRNA transcription has been observed in two rodent hepatoma cell lines so far, this appears to be the first demonstration of inducibility of a mammalian gene encoding a clearly defined DNA repair function. The transcriptional activation of the MGMT gene protects cells from the mutagenic effects of methylating agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4660-4668
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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