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Infrared spectral models demonstrate that exposure to environmental chemicals leads to new forms of DNA

  • Donald C. Malins
  • Nayak L. Polissar
  • Sandra J. Gunselman
The National Academy of Sciences of the USA
Publication Date
Apr 15, 1997
  • Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Geography
  • Physics


Environmental chemicals are known to induce a high degree of hydroxyl radical-mediated damage in DNA. Accordingly, we tested the hypothesis that this exposure leads to new forms of DNA using principal components analysis of Fourier transform infrared spectra. The hepatic DNA of English sole (controls) from an essentially clean environment was compared with that of sole inhabiting a chemically contaminated environment. All livers studied were cancer-free; however, a high incidence of liver cancer has been found in the exposed population. The exposed sole were sampled twice, 2 years apart, while the sediments in which they live were under remediation. After obtaining infrared spectra, the first three principal components (PC1, PC2, and PC3) were calculated and found to represent 97% of the total spectral variance. When the principal component scores were plotted in 3-dimensional space, clusters of points were obtained that represented the DNA from the control and exposed groups. Each of the points was derived from ≈106 wavenumber–absorbance correlations. The spatial location of a point was a highly discriminating measure of DNA structure. The clusters of points were completely separated, demonstrating that the three groups could be 100% correctly classified. The points from the control group were tightly clustered whereas those from the exposed groups were highly diverse. The findings demonstrate that exposure to environmental chemicals results in new, structurally diverse forms of DNA that likely play an important role in carcinogenesis.

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