Summary: Bacterial DNA was incubated with xanthine plus xanthine oxidase plus excess iron as an oxygen-species-generating system, and DNA injury was measured by agarose gel electrophoresis and by the ability of the DNA to transform competent bacteria. After 5 to 10 min incubation, the covalently closed circular form of plasmid DNA was converted into the open circular form, and after 30 min, to some extent into the linear form. Biological activity, measured as the number of transformed bacteria, decreased rapidly after 10 min incubation. Incubation of chromosomal DNA with the enzymic oxygen-species-generating system resulted in the degradation of DNA to small fragments within about 1 h. Excess iron was essential for the damaging effect of xanthine plus xanthine oxidase. Damage to DNA could be prevented by oxygen scavengers such as superoxide dismutase, catalase, mannitol and thiourea. Our results suggest that hydroxyl radical is the injurious oxidant for bacterial DNA, and that it can mediate physicochemical as well as biological alterations in DNA.


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