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Role of Oxygen in the Cross-linking and Degradation of Deoxyribonucleic Acid by Ionizing Radiations


WHEN deoxyribonucleic acid in dilute aqueous solutions is irradiated with X-rays, the attack by the free radicals produced in water leads to main-chain scission, and this reaction is essentially the same in the presence as in the absence of oxygen1. Irradiation of nucleic acid in the solid state and containing less than 25 per cent of water leads to a complex series of reactions which, judged by physico-chemical measurements, were largely unaffected by oxygen. With nucleic acid gels having a water content between these two extremes, oxygen was found to exert a pronounced influence on the changes produced by irradiation with 1-MeV. electrons. Since deoxyribonucleic acid is present in the cells in the form of a relatively concentrated gel, the response to radiation in this form is more likely to be of biological significance than the behaviour of dilute solutions or nearly dry solid.

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    Lett, J. T., and Stacey, K. A., Makromol. Chem., 38, 204 (1960).

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    Alexander, P., Lett, J. T., Moroson, H., and Stacey, K. A., Int. J. Radiation Biology, Supp. 1, 47 (1959).

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    Alexander, P., and Charlesby, A., J. Pol. Sci., 23, 355 (1957).

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