Recently, we showed that the cytotoxic and mutagenic response in human cells to the model SN2 alkylating agent methyl methanesulfonate (MMS) can be modulated by the mismatch repair (MMR) pathway. That is, human cancer cell lines defective in MMR are more resistant to the cytotoxic effects of MMS exposure and suffer more induced mutations at the HPRT locus than MMR-proficient cell lines. Since MMS produces little O6-methylguanine (O6-meG), the observed hypermutability and resistance to cytotoxicity in MMR-defective cells likely results from lesions other than O6-meG. MMS produces a high yield of N7-methylguanine (N7-meG) and N3-methyladenine (N3-meA), which can lead to the formation of promutagenic abasic sites, and these lesions may be responsible for the observed cytotoxic and/or mutagenic effects of MMS. To further investigate the mechanism of MMS mutagenesis, two MMR-defective human cancer cell lines were treated with MMS and the frequency and the types of mutations produced at the HPRT locus were determined. MMS treatment (1.5 mM) produced a 1.6- and a 2.2-fold increase in mutations above spontaneous levels in HCT116 and DLD-1 cell lines, respectively. An average 3.7-fold increase in transversion mutations was observed, which accounted for greater than one-third of all induced mutations in both cell lines. In contrast, an average 1.6-fold increase was seen among transition mutations (the class expected from O-alkylation products). Since transversion mutations are not produced by O6-meG, these findings suggest that abasic sites may be the lesion responsible for a large proportion of MMS mutagenicity in MMR-defective cells. Furthermore, these data suggest the MMS-induced damage, either abasic site-inducing base alterations (i.e., N7-meG and N3-meA) or the resulting abasic sites themselves, may be substrates for recognition and/or repair by MMR proteins.
Copyright 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.