Carbonate radical anions are potentially important oxidants of nucleic acids in physiological environments. However, the mechanisms of action are poorly understood, and the end products of oxidation of DNA by carbonate radicals have not been characterized. These oxidation pathways were explored in this work, starting from the laser pulse-induced generation of the primary radical species to the identification of the stable oxidative modifications (lesions). The cascade of events was initiated by utilizing 308 nm XeCl excimer laser pulses to generate carbonate radical anions on submicrosecond time scales. This laser flash photolysis method involved the photodissociation of persulfate to sulfate radical anions and the one electron oxidation of bicarbonate anions by the sulfate radicals to yield the carbonate radical anions. The latter were monitored by their characteristic transient absorption band at 600 nm. The rate constants of reactions of carbonate radicals with oligonucleotides increase in the ascending order: 5′-d(CCATCCTACC) [(5.7 ± 0.6) × 106 M-1 s-1] < 5′-d(TATAACGTTATA), self-complementary duplex [(1.4 ± 0.2) × 107 M-1 s-1] < 5′-d(CCATCGCTACC [(2.4 ± 0.3) × 107 M-1 s-1] < 5′-d(CCATC[8-oxo-G]CTACC) [(3.2 ± 0.4) × 108 M-1 s-1], where 8-oxo-G is 8-oxo-7,8-dihydroguanine, the product of a two electron oxidation of guanine. This remarkable enhancement of the rate constants is correlated with the presence of either G or 8-oxo-G bases in the oligonucleotides. The rate constant for the oxidation of G in a single-stranded oligonuclotide is faster by a factor of ∼2 than in the double-stranded form. The site selective oxidation of G and 8-oxo-G residues by carbonate radicals results in the formation of unique end products, the diastereomeric spiroiminodihydantoin (Sp) lesions, the products of a four electron oxidation of guanine. These lesions, formed in high yields (40-60%), were isolated by reversed phase HPLC and identified by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry. These assignments were supported by the characteristic circular dichroism spectra of opposite signs of the two lesions. The oxidation of guanine to Sp diastereomers occurs, at least in part, via the formation of 8-oxo-G lesions as intermediates. The Sp lesions can be considered as the terminal products of the oxidation of G and 8-oxo-G in DNA by carbonate radical anions. The mechanistic aspects and biological implications of these site selective reactions in DNA initiated by carbonate radicals are discussed.
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