Transfection and expression of human O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) cDNA in chinese hamster cells: The role of MGMT in protection against the genotoxic effects of alkylating agents

Kaina Bernd, Gerhard Fritz, Sankar Mitra, Thérèse Coquerelle

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Ο6-Methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) is responsible for removal of Ο6-alkylguanine from DNA induced by alkylating mutagens/carcinogens. To analyze the involvement of Ο6-alkylguanine in the generation and MGMT in avoidance of various genotoxic effects of alkylating agents, we transfected Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells that lack MGMT activity with human MGMT cDNA cloned into a mammalian expression vector (pSV2MGMT). A high proportion (60-80%) of transfectants selected for a cotransfected neo gene survived treatment with high doses of N-methyl-N′-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG) and N-hydroxyethyl-N-chloroethylnitrosourea (HeCNU). Parallel transfections with an expression vector containing the bacterial ada gene (pSV2ada) showed the human MGMT to be more effective than the ada expression vector in mediating alkylation resistance. Various clonal CHO cell lines have been established stably transfected with the human MGMT cDNA. The transfectants expressed human MGMT at levels ranging from 8600 to 210 000 molecules per cell. The high MGMT expressors became strongly resistant to the killing effects of MNNG, HeCNU, N-methyl-N-nitrosourea (MNU) and, to a significant lesser degree, methyl methanesulfonate (MMS) and ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS). No killing resistance was observed to N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU), though the MGMT and ada transfectants showed reduction in mutation frequency induced by this agent. Protection from mutation induction by MGMT (and ada) expression was also demonstrated for MNNG. The transfectants were also protected from the sister chromatid exchange (SCE) inducing and, to a lesser degree, clastogenic effect of MNNG and MNU, and slightly to EMS and MMS. Again no protection was observed towards ENU. Correlations between MGMT activity and resistance to a given end point suggest that, for MNNG, Ο6-methylguanine is the preponderant toxic, mutagenic and SCE inducing lesion. About 90% of MNNG (and MNU) induced SCEs and nearly all of the MNNG-induced gene mutations seem to be due to this adduct. For alkylation-induced chromosomal aberrations, however, and for cell killing and SCEs induced by MMS, EMS and ENU, other lesions than Ο6-alkylguanine appear to be of major importance. The data strongly support the view that Ο6-methylguanine is a genotoxic lesion and MGMT a function decisively involved in avoidance of genotoxic effects in cells exposed to MNNG and related compounds. They indicate also that it is important to take into account the property and mode of action of any given alkylating agent in assessing the protective role of MGMT against alkylationinduced genotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1857-1867
Number of pages11
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research

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