Anthracyclines React with Apurinic/Apyrimidinic Sites in DNA

Medjda Bellamri, John T. Terrell, Kyle Brandt, Francesca Gruppi, Robert J. Turesky, Carmelo J. Rizzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The combination of doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and cyclophosphamide, referred to as AC chemotherapy, is commonly used for the clinical treatment of breast and other cancers. Both agents target DNA with cyclophosphamide causing alkylation damage and doxorubicin stabilizing the topoisomerase II-DNA complex. We hypothesize a new mechanism of action whereby both agents work in concert. DNA alkylating agents, such as nitrogen mustards, increase the number of apurinic/apyrimidinic (AP) sites through deglycosylation of labile alkylated bases. Herein, we demonstrate that anthracyclines with aldehyde-reactive primary and secondary amines form covalent Schiff base adducts with AP sites in a 12-mer DNA duplex, calf thymus DNA, and MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells treated with nor-nitrogen mustard and the anthracycline mitoxantrone. The anthracycline-AP site conjugates are characterized and quantified by mass spectrometry after NaB(CN)H3 or NaBH4 reduction of the Schiff base. If stable, the anthracycline-AP site conjugates represent bulky adducts that may block DNA replication and contribute to the cytotoxic mechanism of therapies involving combinations of anthracyclines and DNA alkylating agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalACS Chemical Biology
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The National Cancer Institute funded this work through Grant P01 CA160032 (R.J.T. and C.J.R.). Cancer Center Support Grants partially support the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota (CA 077598) and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (CA 068485). The Turesky laboratory gratefully acknowledges the support of Masonic Chair in Cancer Causation, University of Minnesota. We thank R.S. Lloyd (Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR) for helpful comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Chemical Society.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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