DNA damage by carbonyl stress in human skin cells

Michael J. Roberts, Georg T. Wondrak, Daniel Cervantes Laurean, Myron K. Jacobson, Elaine L. Jacobson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Reactive carbonyl species (RCS) are potent mediators of cellular carbonyl stress originating from endogenous chemical processes such as lipid peroxidation and glycation. Skin deterioration as observed in photoaging and diabetes has been linked to accumulative protein damage from glycation, but the effects of carbonyl stress on skin cell genomic integrity are ill defined. In this study, the genotoxic effects of acute carbonyl stress on HaCaT keratinocytes and CF3 fibroblasts were assessed. Administration of the α-dicarbonyl compounds glyoxal and methylglyoxal as physiologically relevant RCS inhibited skin cell proliferation, led to intra-cellular protein glycation as evidenced by the accumulation of Nε-(carboxymethyl)-L-lysine (CML) in histones, and caused extensive DNA strand cleavage as assessed by the comet assay. These effects were prevented by treatment with the carbonyl scavenger D-penicillamine. Both glyoxal and methylglyoxal damaged DNA in intact cells. Glyoxal caused DNA strand breaks while methylglyoxal produced extensive DNA-protein cross-linking as evidenced by pronounced nuclear condensation and total suppression of comet formation. Glycation by glyoxal and methylglyoxal resulted in histone cross-linking in vitro and induced oxygen-dependent cleavage of plasmid DNA, which was partly suppressed by the hydroxyl scavenger mannitol. We suggest that a chemical mechanism of cellular DNA damage by carbonyl stress occurs in which histone glycoxidation is followed by reactive oxygen induced DNA stand breaks. The genotoxic potential of RCS in cultured skin cells and its suppression by a carbonyl scavenger as described in this study have implications for skin damage and carcinogenesis and its prevention by agents selective for carbonyl stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-56
Number of pages12
JournalMutation Research - Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 28 2003


  • Comet assay
  • DNA damage
  • Glycation
  • N-(Carboxymethyl)-L-lysine
  • Reactive carbonyl species
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Skin cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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