The DNA of all living cells undergoes continuous structural and chemical alteration, which may be derived from exogenous sources, or endogenous, metabolic pathways, such as cellular respiration, replication and DNA demethylation. It has been estimated that approximately 70,000 DNA lesions may be generated per day in a single cell, and this has been linked to a wide variety of diseases, including cancer. However, it is puzzling why potentially mutagenic DNA modifications, occurring at a similar level in different organs/tissue, may lead to organ/tissue specific cancers, or indeed non-malignant disease - what is the basis for this differential response? We suggest that it is perhaps the precise location of damage, within the genome, that is a key factor. Finally, we draw attention to the requirement for reliable methods for identification and quantification of DNA adducts/modifications, and stress the need for these assays to be fully validated. Once these prerequisites are satisfied, measurement of DNA modifications may be helpful as a clinical parameter for treatment monitoring, risk group identification and development of prevention strategies.
Keywords: 5-Carboxycytosine; 5-Formylcytosine; 5-Hydroxymethylcytosine; 5-Hydroxymethyluracil; 8-Oxo-7,8-dihydroguanine; Biomarkers; Cancer; DNA damage; DNA repair; Methylation; Oxidative stress.
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