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Event: 97

Key Event Title

A descriptive phrase which defines a discrete biological change that can be measured. More help

Alkylation, DNA

Short name
The KE short name should be a reasonable abbreviation of the KE title and is used in labelling this object throughout the AOP-Wiki. More help
Alkylation, DNA
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Biological Context

Structured terms, selected from a drop-down menu, are used to identify the level of biological organization for each KE. More help
Level of Biological Organization

Cell term

The location/biological environment in which the event takes place.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable.  Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf. More help
Cell term
eukaryotic cell

Organ term

The location/biological environment in which the event takes place.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable.  Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf. More help

Key Event Components

The KE, as defined by a set structured ontology terms consisting of a biological process, object, and action with each term originating from one of 14 biological ontologies (Ives, et al., 2017; Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signalling).Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signaling).  The biological object is the subject of the perturbation (e.g., a specific biological receptor that is activated or inhibited). Action represents the direction of perturbation of this system (generally increased or decreased; e.g., ‘decreased’ in the case of a receptor that is inhibited to indicate a decrease in the signaling by that receptor).  Note that when editing Event Components, clicking an existing Event Component from the Suggestions menu will autopopulate these fields, along with their source ID and description.  To clear any fields before submitting the event component, use the 'Clear process,' 'Clear object,' or 'Clear action' buttons.  If a desired term does not exist, a new term request may be made via Term Requests.  Event components may not be edited; to edit an event component, remove the existing event component and create a new one using the terms that you wish to add.  Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf. More help
Process Object Action
DNA alkylation deoxyribonucleic acid increased

Key Event Overview

AOPs Including This Key Event

All of the AOPs that are linked to this KE will automatically be listed in this subsection. This table can be particularly useful for derivation of AOP networks including the KE. Clicking on the name of the AOP will bring you to the individual page for that AOP. More help
AOP Name Role of event in AOP Point of Contact Author Status OECD Status
Alkylation of DNA leading to heritable mutations MolecularInitiatingEvent Carole Yauk (send email) Open for citation & comment WPHA/WNT Endorsed
DNA alkylation -> cancer 1 MolecularInitiatingEvent Carole Yauk (send email) Open for adoption
DNA alkylation -> cancer 2 MolecularInitiatingEvent Carole Yauk (send email) Not under active development
Alkylation of DNA leading to reduced sperm count MolecularInitiatingEvent Carole Yauk (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite

Taxonomic Applicability

Latin or common names of a species or broader taxonomic grouping (e.g., class, order, family) that help to define the biological applicability domain of the KE.In many cases, individual species identified in these structured fields will be those for which the strongest evidence used in constructing the AOP was available in relation to this KE. More help
Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
mouse Mus musculus High NCBI
Syrian golden hamster Mesocricetus auratus High NCBI
rat Rattus norvegicus High NCBI
Homo sapiens Homo sapiens High NCBI

Life Stages

An indication of the the relevant life stage(s) for this KE. More help

Sex Applicability

An indication of the the relevant sex for this KE. More help
Term Evidence
Mixed High

Key Event Description

A description of the biological state being observed or measured, the biological compartment in which it is measured, and its general role in the biology should be provided. More help

The event involves DNA alkylation to form a variety of different DNA adducts (i.e., alkylated nucleotides). Alkylation occurs at various sites in DNA and can include alkylation of adenine- Nl, - N3, - N7, guanine- N3, - O6, - N7, thymine-O2, - N3, - O4, cytosine- O2, -N3, and the phosphate (diester) group (reviewed in detail in Beranek 1990). In addition, alkylation can involve modification with different sizes of alkylation groups (e.g., methyl, ethyl, propyl). It should be noted that many of these adducts are not stable or are readily repaired (discussed in more detail below). A small proportion of adducts are stable and remain bound to DNA for long periods of time.

How It Is Measured or Detected

A description of the type(s) of measurements that can be employed to evaluate the KE and the relative level of scientific confidence in those measurements.These can range from citation of specific validated test guidelines, citation of specific methods published in the peer reviewed literature, or outlines of a general protocol or approach (e.g., a protein may be measured by ELISA). Do not provide detailed protocols. More help

There is no OECD guideline for measurement of alkylated DNA, although technologies for their detection are established. Reviews of modern methods to measure DNA adducts include Himmelstein et al,. 2009 and Philips et al., 2000.

High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) methods can be used to measure whether an agent is capable of alkylating DNA in somatic cells. Alkyl adducts in somatic cells can be measured using immunological methods (described in Nehls et al. 1984), as well as HPLC (methods in de Groot et al. 1994) or a combination of 32P post-labeling, HPLC and immunologic detection (Kang et al. 1992). We note that mass spectrometry provides structural specificity and confirmation of the structure of DNA adducts.

DNA alkylation can also be measured using a modified comet assay. This method involves the digestion of alkylated DNA bases with 3–methyladenine DNA glycosylase (Collins et al., 2001; Hasplova et al., 2012) followed by the standard comet assay to detect where alkyl adducts occur. The advantage of this method is that the alkaline version of the comet assay, as a core method, has an in vivo OECD guideline.

Finally, structure-activity relationships (SARs) have been developed to predict the possibility that a chemical will alkylate DNA (e.g., Vogel and Ashby, 1994; Benigni, 2005; Dai et al., 1989; Lewis and Griffith, 1987).

Measurement of alkylation in male germ cells:

In rodent testes, studies have detected adducts in situ by immuhistocytological staining. For example, fixed testes are incubated with O6-EtGua -specific mouse monoclonal antibody and subsequently with a labeled anti-mouse IgG F antibody. Nuclear DNA is counterstained with DAPI 4,6-diamidino- 2-phenylindole. Fluorescence signals from immunostained O6-EtGua residues in DNA are visualized by fluorescence microscopy and quantitated using an image analysis system. Methods are described in (Seiler et al. 1997). An immunoslot blot assay for detection of O6-EtGua has been described previously in (Mientjes et al. 1996).

Alternatively, rodents have also been exposed to radio-labeled alkylating agents. Examples from the literature include [2-3H] ENU, [1-3H]di-ethyl sulfate, or [1-3H]ethyl-methane sulfonate. Following treatment with the labeled chemical, testis and other tissues of interest are removed. Germ cells are released from tubuli by pushing out the contents with forceps. Using this procedure all germ-cell stages are liberated from the tubuli, with the possible exception of part of the population of stem-cell spermatogonia that remain attached to the walls of the tubuli. DNA is then extracted from germ cells, empty testis tubuli and other tissues of interest. DNA adduct formation is determined after neutral and acid hydrolysis of DNA followed by separation of the various ethylation products using HPLC (described in van Zeeland et al. 1990).

Domain of Applicability

A description of the scientific basis for the indicated domains of applicability and the WoE calls (if provided).  More help

Alkylated DNA has been measured in somatic cells in a variety of species, from prokaryotic organisms, to rodents in vivo, to human cells in culture. Theoretically, DNA alkylation can occur in any cell type in any organism.


List of the literature that was cited for this KE description. More help

Benigni, R. (2005), "Structure-activity relationship studies of chemical mutagens and carcinogens: mechanistic investigations and prediction and approaches", Chem. Rev., 105: 1767-1800.

Beranek, D.T. (1990), "Distribution of methyl and ethyl adducts following alkylation with monofunctional alkylating agents", Mutation Res., 231: 11-30.

Collins, A.R., M. Dusinská and A. Horská (2001), "A Detection of alkylation damage in human lymphocyte DNA with the comet assay". Acta Biochim Pol., 48: 611-4.

Dai, Q.H. and R.G. Zhong (1989), "Quantitative pattern recognition for structure-carcinogenic activity relationship of N-nitroso compounds based upon Di-region theory", Sci China B., 32:776-790.

de Groot, A.J., J.G. Jansen, C.F. van Valkenburg and A.A. van Zeeland (1994), "Molecular dosimetry of 7-alkyl- and O6-alkylguanine in DNA by electrochemical detection", Mutat Res., 307: 61-6.

Hašplová, K., A. Hudecová, Z. Magdolénová, M. Bjøras, E. Gálová, E. Miadoková and M. Dušinská (2012), "DNA alkylation lesions and their repair in human cells: modification of the comet assay with 3-methyladenine DNA glycosylase (AlkD)", Toxicol Lett., 208: 76-81.

Himmelstein, M.W., P.J. Boogaard, J. Cadet, P.B. Farmer, J.J. Kim, E.A. Martin, R. Persaud and D.E. Shuker (2009), "Creating context for the use of DNA adduct data in cancer risk assessment: II. Overview of methods of identification and quantitation of DNA damage", Crit. Rev. Toxicol., 39: 679-94.

Kamino, K., F. Seiler, M. Emura, J. Thomale, M.F. Rajewsky and U. Mohr (1995), "Formation of O6-ethylguanine in spermatogonial DNA of adult Syrian golden hamster by intraperitoneal injection of diethylnitrosamine", Exp. Toxicol. Pathol., 47: 443-445.

Kang, H.I., C. Konishi, G. Eberle, M.F. Rajewsky, T. Kuroki and N.H. Huh (1992), "Highly sensitive, specific detection of O6-methylguanine, O4-methylthymine, and O4-ethylthymine by the combination of high-performance liquid chromatography prefractionation, 32P postlabeling, and immunoprecipitation", Cancer Res., 52: 5307-5312.

Lewis, D.F. and V.S. Griffiths (1987), "Molecular electrostatic potential energies and methylation of DNA bases: a molecular orbital-generated quantitative structure-activity relationship", Xenobiotica, 17: 769-776.

Mientjes, E.J., K. Hochleitner, A. Luiten-Schuite, J.H. van Delft, J. Thomale, F. Berends, M.F. Rajewsky, P.H. Lohman and R.A. Baan (1996), "Formation and persistence of O6-ethylguanine in genomic and transgene DNA in liver and brain of lambda(lacZ) transgenic mice treated with N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea", Carcinogenesis, 17: 2449-2454.

Nehls, P., M.F. Rajewsky, E. Spiess, D. Werner (1984), "Highly sensitive sites for guanine-O6 ethylation in rat brain DNA exposed to N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea in vivo", EMBO J., 3:327-332.

Phillips, D.H., P.B. Farmer, F.A. Beland, R.G. Nath, M.C. Poirier, M.V. Reddy and K.W. Turteltaub (2000), "Methods of DNA adduct determination and their application to testing compounds for genotoxicity", Environ. Mol. Mutagen., 35: 222-233.

Scherer, E., A.A. Jenner and L. den Engelse (1987), "Immunocytochemical studies on the formation and repair of O6-alkylguanine in rat tissues", IARC Sci. Publ., 84: 55-58.

Sega, G.A., C.R. Rohrer, H.R. Harvey and A.E. Jetton (1986), "Chemical dosimetry of ethyl nitrosourea in the mouse testis", Mutat. Res., 159: 65-74.

Seiler, F., K. Kamino, M. Emura, U. Mohr and J. Thomale (1997), "Formation and persistence of the miscoding DNA alkylation product O6-ethylguanine in male germ cells of the hamster", Mutat. Res., 385: 205-211.

van Zeeland, A.A., A. de Groot and A. Neuhäuser-Klaus (1990), "DNA adduct formation in mouse testis by ethylating agents: a comparison with germ-cell mutagenesis", Mutat. Res. 231: 55-62.

Vogel, E.W., Ashby, J. (1994), "Structure-activity relationships: experimental approaches." In: Methods to asses DNA Damage and repair: Interspecies comparisons. Edited by R.T. Tardiff, P.H.M. Lohman and G.N. Wogan, SCOPE, Wiley and Sons LTD.