Depurinating acylfulvene-DNA adducts: Characterizing cellular chemical reactions of a selective antitumor agent

Jiachang Gong, V. G. Vaidyanathan, Xiang Yu, Thomas W. Kensler, Lisa A. Peterson, Shana J. Sturla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Acylfulvenes (AFs) are a class of semisynthetic agents with high toxicity toward certain tumor cells, and for one analogue, hydroxymethylacylfulvene (HMAF), clinical trials are in progress. DNA alkylation by AFs, mediated by bioreductive activation, is believed to contribute to cytotoxicity, but the structures and chemical properties of corresponding DNA adducts are unknown. This study provides the first structural characterization of AF-specific DNA adducts. In the presence of a reductive enzyme, alkenal/one oxidoreductase (AOR), AF selectively alkylates dAdo and dGuo in reactions with a monomeric nucleoside, as well as in reactions with naked or cellular DNA, with 3-alkyl-dAdo as the apparently most abundant AF-DNA adduct. Characterization of this adduct was facilitated by independent chemical synthesis of the corresponding 3-alkyl-Ade adduct. In addition, in naked or cellular DNA, evidence was obtained for the formation of an additional type of adduct resulting from direct conjugate addition of Ade to AF followed by hydrolytic cyclopropane ring-opening, indicating the potential for a competing reaction pathway involving direct DNA alkylation. The major AF-dAdo and AF-dGuo adducts are unstable under physiologically relevant conditions and depurinate to release an alkylated nucleobase in a process that has a half-life of 8.5 h for 3-alkyladenine and less than approximately 2 h for dGuo adducts. DNA alkylation further leads to single-stranded DNA cleavage, occurring exclusively at dGuo and dAdo sites, in a nonsequence-specific manner. In AF-treated cells that were transfected with either AOR or control vectors, the DNA adducts identified match those from in vitro studies. Moreover, a positive correlation was observed between DNA adduct levels and cell sensitivity to AF. The potential contributing roles of AOR-mediated bioactivation and adduct stability to the cytotoxicity of AF are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2101-2111
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 21 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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