Chromium(VI) is a known human carcinogen which requires intracellular reduction for activation. Ascorbate (vitamin C) has been reported to function as a major reductant of Cr(VI) in animals and cell culture systems. The reaction of Cr(VI) with varying concentrations of ascorbate was studied under physiological conditions in vitro in order to determine the types of reactive intermediates produced and to evaluate the reactivity of these intermediates with DNA. Reactions of 1.8 mM Cr(VI) with 0-18 mM ascorbate at pH 7.0 in N-(2-hydroxyethyl)piperazine-M-2-ethanesulfonic acid (HEPES; 0.10 M) and tris(hydroxymethyl)aminomethane hydrochloride (Tris'HCl; 0.050 M) buffers were studied by electron paramagnetic resonance and UV/visible spectroscopy. Cr(V) and carbon-based free radical adducts of 5,5-dimethyl-l-pyrroline 1-oxide (DMPO) were observed at 0.5 to 1 and 1 to 1 reactions of ascorbate to Cr(VI). Levels of Cr(V) were higher for reactions in HEPES buffer, and levels of carbon-based radicals were higher in Tris•HCl buffer. Levels of Cr(IV) and Cr(III) increased with increasing concentration of ascorbate in both buffers. Reaction of Cr(VI) with varying ascorbate in the presence of calf thymus DNA or pBR322 DNA resulted in Cr-DNA adducts and plasmid relaxation, respectively. Maximum binding of Cr to DNA was observed for the 1:1 reaction ratio of Cr(VI) with ascorbate in both HEPES and Tris'HCl buffers, but total Cr bound to DNA was 8-fold lower in Tris•HCl than HEPES buffer. Preincubation of Cr(VI) with ascorbate before reaction with DNA decreased Cr-DNA binding to background levels. Preincubation of Cr(IH) with ascorbate resulted in only low Cr-DNA binding. Levels of Cr-DNA binding were higher with single-stranded vs double-stranded DNA. Reactions with Relabeled ascorbate produced no cross-linking of ascorbate to DNA. Maximum plasmid relaxation was observed for the 1:1 ascorbate to Cr(VI) ratio in both buffers; however, single-strand breaks were 2-fold higher in Tris•HCl than HEPES buffer. Reactions with plasmid in the presence of DMPO quenched formation of single-strand breaks. Interpretation of these results in light of the spectroscopic studies suggested that Cr(V) and carbon-based radicals were responsible for Cr-DNA adducts and DNA singlestrand breaks, respectively.
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