Human O6-alkylguanine-DNA alkyltransferase (hAGT) expression increases mutations and cytotoxicity following exposure to 1,3-butadiene diepoxide (BDO), and hAGT-DNA cross-links are formed in the presence of BDO. We have used hAGT mutants to investigate the mechanism of cross-link formation and genotoxicity. Formation of a hAGT-DNA conjugate in vitro was observed with C145S and C145A mutant proteins but was considerably diminished with the C145A/C150S double mutant confirming that cross-linking primarily involves either of these two cysteine residues, which are located in the active site pocket of the protein. Cross-link formation by BDO occurred both via (a) an initial reaction of BDO with hAGT followed by attack of the reactive hAGT complex on DNA, and (b) the initial reaction of BDO with DNA followed by a reaction between hAGT and the DNA adduct. These results differ from those with 1,2-dibromoethane (DBE) where Cys145 is the only site of attachment and pathway (b) does not occur. The complex formed between hAGT at Cys145 and BDO was very unstable in aqueous solution. However, the BDO-hAGT complex at Cys150 exhibited stability for more than 1 h. The effect of hAGT and mutants on BDO-induced genotoxicity was studied in E. coli using the forward assay to rifampicin resistance. Both mutations and cell killing were greatly increased by wild type hAGT, and there was a smaller but significant effect with the C145A mutant. The R128A mutant and R128A/C145A and C145A/ C150S double mutants were ineffective, supporting the hypothesis that the formation of hAGT-DNA cross-links is responsible for the enhanced genotoxicity detected in this biological system. In the absence of hAGT, there were equal proportions of G:C to A:T transitions, G:C to T:A transversions, and A:T to T:A transversions. Wild type hAGT expression yielded significantly greater G:C to A:T and A:T to G:C transitions, whereas C145A mutant expression resulted in more transitions and transversions at A:T base-pairs.
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