Hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) are the third leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. The highest rates of early onset HCCs occur in geographical regions with high aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) exposure, concomitant with hepatitis B infection. Although the carcinogenic basis of AFB1 has been ascribed to its mutagenic effects, the mutagenic property of the primary AFB1-DNA adduct, AFB1-N7-Gua, in mammalian cells has not been studied extensively. Taking advantage of the ability to create vectors containing a site-specific DNA adduct, the mutagenic potential was determined in primate cells. This adduct was highly mutagenic following replication in COS-7 cells, with a mutation frequency of 45%. The spectrum of mutations was predominantly G to T base substitutions, a result that is consistent with previous mutation data derived from aflatoxin-associated HCCs. To assess which DNA polymerases (pol) might contribute to the mutational outcome, in vitro replication studies were performed. Unexpectedly, replicative pol δ and the error-prone translesion synthesis pol ζ were able to accurately bypass AFB1-N7-Gua. In contrast, replication bypass using pol κ was shown to occur with low fidelity and could account for the commonly detected G to T transversions.
© 2014 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.