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Human colorectal mucosal O6-alkylguanine DNA-alkyltransferase activity and DNA-N7-methylguanine levels in colorectal adenoma cases and matched referents
  1. N P Lees2,*,
  2. K L Harrison3,
  3. C N Hall1,
  4. G P Margison2,
  5. A C Povey3
  1. 1Department of Gastrointestinal Surgery, Wythenshawe Hospital, Wythenshawe, Manchester, UK
  2. 2Cancer Research UK Carcinogenesis Group, Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, Christie Hospital, Manchester, UK
  3. 3Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr A C Povey
    Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK; apovey{at}


Background and aims:O6-alkylguanine DNA-alkyltransferase (MGMT) provides protection against alkylating agent-induced GC→AT transition mutations. Such mutations are frequently seen in the KRAS oncogene of large colorectal adenomas, but whether adenoma or mutational risk in humans is influenced by MGMT activity and alkylating agent exposure is unclear. Hence, MGMT activity and, as an indicator of alkylating agent exposure, DNA-N7-methylguanine (N7-MeG) levels were determined in the normal tissue of patients with and without adenomas.

Methods: Biopsy specimens of normal colorectal mucosa were collected during colonoscopy from 85 patients with histologically proved colorectal adenomas (cases) and from 85 patients free of gastrointestinal neoplasia (referents) matched by age, sex and biopsy location. MGMT activity and N7-MeG levels were measured in colorectal tissue extracts and DNA, respectively.

Results: MGMT activity was higher in the normal mucosa of cases than in referents (6.65±3.03 vs 5.61±2.74 fmol/μg DNA, p = 0.01). On stratification of cases, MGMT activity was found to be considerably greater in the normal mucosa of cases with large adenomas (p = 0.003) and slightly higher in cases with a GC→AT transition mutation in the K-ras gene (p = 0.03). Elevated MGMT levels were associated with an increased risk of adenoma (OR 1.17, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.33 per unit increase in activity). Detectable levels of N7-MeG were found in DNA from 89% of cases and 93% of referents, with levels ranging from <0.1 to 7.7 µmol/mol dG. Cases and referents had similar DNA-N7-MeG levels.

Conclusions: Human exposure to methylating agents is widespread. MGMT activity is increased in the normal mucosa of patients with adenomas.

  • CRC, colorectal cancer
  • MGMT, O6-alkylguanine DNA-alkyltransferase
  • N7-MeG, N7-methylguanine

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  • * Current address: Department of Colorectal Surgery, Hope Hospital, Stott Lane, Salford M6 8HD, UK

  • Published Online First 4 August 2006

  • Competing interests: None declared.

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