Research Papers:

MUTYH mediates the toxicity of combined DNA 6-thioguanine and UVA radiation

Francesca Grasso, Vitalba Ruggieri, Gabriele De Luca, Paola Leopardi, Maria Teresa Mancuso, Ida Casorelli, Pietro Pichierri, Peter Karran and Margherita Bignami _

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:7481-7492. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.3037

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Francesca Grasso1,2,*, Vitalba Ruggieri3,*, Gabriele De Luca1, Paola Leopardi1, Maria Teresa Mancuso4, Ida Casorelli5, Pietro Pichierri1, Peter Karran6 and Margherita Bignami1

1 Department of Environment and Primary Prevention, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy

2 Department of Science, University Roma Tre, Rome, Italy

3 Laboratory of Pre-Clinical and Translational Research, IRCCS, Referral Cancer Center of Basilicata, Rionero in Vulture, Italy

4 Laboratory of Radiation Biology and Biomedicine, Agenzia Nazionale per le Nuove Tecnologie, l’Energia e lo Sviluppo Economico Sostenibile (ENEA) CR-Casaccia, Rome, Italy

5 Department of Immunohematology and Transfusion Unit, Azienda Ospedaliera Sant’Andrea, Rome, Italy

6 Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, Clare Hall Laboratories, South Mimms, Herts, UK

* These authors contributed equally to this work


Margherita Bignami, email:

Keywords: MUTYH, 6-thioguanine, azathioprine, UVA

Received: October 22, 2014 Accepted: December 01, 2014 Published: December 02, 2014


The therapeutic thiopurines, including the immunosuppressant azathioprine (Aza) cause the accumulation of the UVA photosensitizer 6-thioguanine (6-TG) in the DNA of the patients’ cells. DNA 6-TG and UVA are synergistically cytotoxic and their interaction causes oxidative damage. The MUTYH DNA glycosylase participates in the base excision repair of oxidized DNA bases. Using Mutyh-nullmouse fibroblasts (MEFs) we examined whether MUTYH provides protection against the lethal effects of combined DNA 6-TG/UVA. Surprisingly, Mutyh-null MEFs were more resistant than wild-type MEFs, despite accumulating higher levels of DNA 8-oxo-7,8-dihydroguanine (8-oxoG).Their enhanced 6-TG/UVA resistance reflected the absence of the MUTYH protein and MEFs expressing enzymatically-dead human variants were as sensitive as wild-type cells. Consistent with their enhanced resistance, Mutyh-null cells sustained fewer DNA strand breaks and lower levels of chromosomal damage after 6-TG/UVA. Although 6-TG/UVA treatment caused early checkpoint activation irrespective of the MUTYH status, Mutyh-null cells failed to arrest in S-phase at late time points. MUTYH-dependent toxicity was also apparent in vivo. Mutyh-/- mice survived better than wild-type during a 12-month chronicexposure to Aza/UVA treatments that significantly increased levels of skin DNA 8-oxoG. Two squamous cell skin carcinomas arose in Aza/UVA treated Mutyh-/- mice whereas similarly treated wild-type animals remained tumor-free.

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