A dodecadeoxynucleotide of defined sequence containing O4-methylthymine was labeled at the 5′ end with [32P] by the reaction with (γ-32P]ATP and polynucleotide kinase. Extracts prepared from bacterial and mammalian sources such as the human cell lines, HeLa and HT29, and rat liver were incubated with the labeled, methylated dodecamer to determine the extent of repair of the lesion. The labeled, demethylated dodecamer was separated from the labeled methylated dodecamer on a reverse-phase column using a shallow methanol gradient. There was complete repair of O4-methylthymine by the E. coli alkyltransferase upon incubation for 4 h at 37°C. There was no detectable amount of demethylated product formed upon incubation with HeLa or HT29 cell extract for the same incubation period. There was also no repair of the O4-methylthymine lesion in the presence of crude rat-liver extract. However, the rat-liver extract alone degraded the methylated substrate completely, and the assay had to be conducted in the presence of NaF, AMP and unlabeled, nonmethylated dodecamer to prevent this. The results obtained from this assay, which is at least an order of magnitude more sensitive than previous methods, are in agreement with previous results that the mammalian alkyltransferase is specific for O6-alkylguanine repair.
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