Background: Guanine residues in the genome are vulnerable to attack by free radicals and reactive oxygen species. A major lesion thus produced, 8-oxoguanine (OG), causes mutations by mis-pairing with adenine during replication. In bacteria and budding yeast, OG is removed from the genome through the action of base-excision DNA repair (BER) enzymes, which catalyze expulsion of the aberrant base and excision of its sugar moiety from the DNA backbone. Although OG is known to be produced in and cleansed from mammalian genomes, the enzymes responsible for OG repair in these cells have remained elusive.
Results: Here, we report the cloning and biochemical characterization of mammalian BER enzymes that specifically target OG residues in DNA. These 8-oxoguanine DNA glycosylases, hOgg1 (human) and mOgg1 (murine), are homologous to each other and to yeast Ogg1. They also contain an active site motif - the Helix-hairpin-Helix, Gly/Pro-rich-Asp motif - characteristic of a superfamily of BER proteins with a similar core fold and active site geometry. Both hOgg1 and mOgg1 exhibit exquisite selectivity for the base opposite OG in DNA, operating with high efficiency only on OG base-paired to cytosine. Furthermore, hOgg1 and mOgg1 are unable to process a panel of alternative lesions, including 8-oxoadenine, yet bind with high affinity to synthetic abasic site analogs. The proteins operate through a classical glycosylase/lyase catalytic mechanism; mutation of a catalytically essential lysine residue results in loss of catalytic potency but retention of binding to OG-containing oligonucleotides. The hOGG1 gene is localized on the short arm of chromosome 3 (3p25/26) in a region commonly deleted in cancers.
Conclusions: These results conclusively establish the existence and identity of an 8-oxoguanine DNA glycosylase/lyase in human and murine cells, completing the triad of proteins that together protect mammals from the genotoxic effects of guanine oxidation. The observation that at least one allele of hOGG1 is commonly deleted in cancer cells suggests that such cells may possess a reduced capacity to counter the mutagenic effects of reactive oxygen species, a deficiency that could increase their overall genomic instability. This speculation is fueled by recent observations that cells constitutively active for the Ras/Raf pathway constitutively produce high levels of superoxide, a known generator of OG.