Abstract

Sodium bisulfite is a mutagen which can specifically deaminate more than 96% of the cytosine residues in single-stranded DNA via formation of a 5,6-dihydrocytosine-6-sulfonate intermediate. Under the same reaction conditions, only 2–3% of the 5-methylcytosine (m 5 Cyt) residues in single-stranded XP-12 DNA, which has 34 mole% m 5 Cyt was converted to thymine (Thy) residues. In contrast, at the deoxynucleoside and free base levels, the same treatment with bisulfite and then alkali converted 51% and > 95%, respectively, of the m 5 Cyt to the corresponding Thy derivatives. However, the rate of reaction of m 5 Cyt and its deoxyribonucleoside was much slower than that of the analogous quantitative conversion of cytosine or deoxycytidine to uracil or deoxyuridine, respectively. The much lower reactivity of m 5 Cyt and its derivatives compared to that of the unmethylated analogs is primarily due to a decrease in the rate of formation of the sulfonate adduct.

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