Methyl DNA phosphate adduct formation in lung tumor tissue and adjacent normal tissue of lung cancer patients

Bin Ma, Peter W. Villalta, J. Bradley Hochalter, Irina Stepanov, Stephen S. Hecht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The formation of methyl DNA adducts is a critical step in carcinogenesis initiated by the exposure to methylating carcinogens. Methyl DNA phosphate adducts, formed by methylation of the oxygen atoms of the DNA phosphate backbone, have been detected in animals treated with methylating carcinogens. However, detection of these adducts in human tissues has not been reported. We developed an ultrasensitive liquid chromatography-nanoelectrospray ionization-high resolution tandem mass spectrometry method for detecting methyl DNA phosphate adducts. Using 50 μg of human lung DNA, a limit of quantitation of two adducts/1010 nucleobases was achieved. Twenty-two structurally unique methyl DNA phosphate adducts were detected in human lung DNA. The adduct levels were measured in both tumor and adjacent normal tissues from 30 patients with lung cancer, including 13 current smokers and 17 current non-smokers, as confirmed by measurements of urinary cotinine and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol. Levels of total methyl DNA phosphate adducts in normal lung tissues were higher in smokers than non-smokers, with an average of 13 and 8 adducts/109 nucleobases, respectively. Methyl DNA phosphate adducts were also detected in lung tissues from untreated rats with steady-state levels of 5-7 adducts/109 nucleobases over a period of 70 weeks. This is the first study to report the detection of methyl DNA phosphate adducts in human lung tissues. The results provide new insights toward using these DNA adducts as potential biomarkers to study human exposure to environmental methylating carcinogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1387-1394
Number of pages8
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 25 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
National Cancer Institute [CA-81301]. Mass spectrometry was carried out in the Analytical Biochemistry Shared Resource of the Masonic Cancer Center, supported in part by Cancer Center Support Grant from National Cancer Institute [CA-77598]. Salary support for P.W.V.  was provided by National Cancer Institute [CA-211256].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


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