OBJECTIVES--To estimate the extent of genomic DNA damage and killing of lymphocytes by reactive oxygen intermediates in autoimmune diseases. METHODS--8-Oxo-7-hydrodeoxyguanosine (8-oxodG), a promutagenic DNA lesion induced by reactive oxygen intermediates, was measured by high performance liquid chromatography, coupled with electrochemical detection, in hydrolysates of DNA which had been extracted from lymphocyte and polymorphonuclear leucocyte fractions of human blood. In addition, human primary blood lymphocytes stimulated by concanavalin A were assayed for cytotoxicity induced by hydrogen peroxide on day 0, by assessing cell proliferation during seven days of culture. RESULTS--Constitutive 8-oxodG was detectable (mean (2 SEM) moles 8-oxodG/10(6) moles deoxyguanosine) in DNA isolated from normal human blood lymphocytes (68 (8), n = 26) and polymorphonuclear leucocytes (118 (24), n = 24). Lymphocyte DNA from donors with the following inflammatory autoimmune diseases contained significantly higher levels of 8-oxodG than that from healthy donors: rheumatoid arthritis (98 (16)), systemic lupus erythematosus (137 (28)), vasculitis (100 (32)), and Behçet's disease (92 (19)). Lymphocyte 8-oxodG levels in non-autoimmune controls and patients with scleroderma were not significantly different from those of healthy controls. The levels of 8-oxodG were significantly higher in the DNA from normal polymorphonuclear leucocytes than in paired DNA samples from normal lymphocytes, but there were no differences between levels of 8-oxodG in polymorphonuclear leucocytes from normal subjects and the patients studied. Levels of 8-oxodG did not correlate with disease duration, disease severity, or age. Lymphocytes from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis, but not those with scleroderma, also showed cellular hypersensitivity to the toxic effects of hydrogen peroxide. CONCLUSION--There was increased genomic DNA damage, and increased susceptibility to cytotoxic killing by hydrogen peroxide, in lymphocytes from patients with certain autoimmune diseases. These results might be explained by defective repair of DNA damage or by increased production of reactive oxygen intermediates in inflammation. Although more direct studies are needed, the evidence available favours the former explanation.
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