Effects of hydroxyurea on CNV induction in the mouse germline

Environ Mol Mutagen. 2018 Oct;59(8):698-714. doi: 10.1002/em.22233. Epub 2018 Sep 15.


Copy number variants (CNVs) are important in genome variation and genetic disease, with new mutations arising frequently in the germline and somatic cells. Replication stress caused by aphidicolin and hydroxyurea (HU) is a potent inducer of de novo CNVs in cultured mammalian cells. HU is used extensively for long-term management of sickle cell disease. Here, we examined the effects of HU treatment on germline CNVs in vivo in male mice to explore whether replication stress can act as a CNV mutagen in germline mitotic divisions as in cultured cells and whether this would support a concern for increased CNV mutations in offspring of men treated with HU. Several trials of HU administration were performed by oral gavage and subcutaneous pump, with CNVs characterized in C57BL/6 x C3H/HeJ hybrid mouse offspring by microarray and mate-pair sequencing. HU had a short half-life of ~14 min and a narrow dose window over which studies could be performed while maintaining fertility. Tissue histopathology and reticulocyte micronucleus assays verified that doses had a substantial tissue and genetic toxicity. CNVs were readily detected in offspring that originated in both paternal and maternal mouse strains, as de novo and inherited events. However, HU did not increase CNV formation above baseline levels. These results reveal a high rate of CNV mutagenesis in the mouse germline but do not support the hypothesis that HU would increase CNV formation during mammalian spermatogenesis, perhaps due to highly toxic effects on sperm development or experimental variables related to HU pharmacology in mice. Environ. Mol. Mutagen. 59:698-714, 2018. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: copy number variant; environmental; germline; hydroxyurea; mutagenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Copy Number Variations / drug effects
  • DNA Copy Number Variations / genetics*
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • DNA Damage / genetics
  • DNA Replication / drug effects
  • DNA Replication / genetics*
  • Germ Cells / drug effects*
  • Hydroxyurea / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Spermatogenesis / drug effects*
  • Spermatozoa / growth & development*


  • Hydroxyurea