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Protection against peroxynitrite-induced DNA damage by mesalamine: implications for anti-inflammation and anti-cancer activity


Mesalamine (5-aminosalicylic acid, 5-ASA) is known to be the first-line medication for treatment of patients with ulcerative colitis. Studies have demonstrated that ulcerative colitis patients treated with 5-ASA have an overall decrease in the risk of developing colorectal carcinoma. However, the mechanisms underlying 5-ASA-mediated anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects are yet to be elucidated. Because peroxynitrite has been critically involved in inflammatory stress and carcinogenesis, this study was undertaken to investigate the effects of 5-ASA in peroxynitrite-induced DNA strand breaks, an important event leading to peroxynitrite-elicited cytotoxicity. Incubation of φX-174 plasmid DNA with the peroxynitrite generator 3-morpholinosydnonimine (SIN-1) led to the formation of both single- and double-stranded DNA breaks in a concentration-dependent manner. The presence of 5-ASA at 0.1 and 1.0 mM was found to significantly inhibit SIN-1-induced DNA strand breaks in a concentration-dependent manner. The consumption of oxygen induced by SIN-1 was found to not be affected by 5-ASA at 0.1–50 mM, indicating that 5-ASA at these concentrations is not involved in the auto-oxidation of SIN-1 to form peroxynitrite. It is observed that 5-ASA at 0.1–1 mM showed considerable inhibition of peroxynitrite-mediated luminol chemiluminescence in a dose-dependent fashion, suggesting that 5-ASA is able to directly scavenge the peroxynitrite. Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy in combination with spin-trapping experiments, using 5,5-dimethylpyrroline-N-oxide (DMPO) as spin trap resulting in the formation of DMPO-hydroxyl radical adduct from peroxynitrite, and 5-ASA only at higher concentration (1 mM) inhibited the hydroxyl radical adduct while shifting EPR spectra, indicating that 5-ASA at higher concentrations may generate a more stable free radical species rather than acting purely as a hydroxyl radical scavenger. Taken together, these studies demonstrate for the first time that 5-ASA can potently inhibit peroxynitrite-mediated DNA strand breakage, scavenge peroxynitrite, and affect peroxynitrite-mediated radical formation, which may be responsible, at least partially, for its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.

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Electron paramagnetic resonance




5-Aminosalicylic acid (mesalamine)


Phosphate-buffered saline

NaHCO3 :

Sodium bicarbonate


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Correspondence to Hong Zhu, Zhenquan Jia or Yunbo Li.

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Graham, P.M., Li, J.Z., Dou, X. et al. Protection against peroxynitrite-induced DNA damage by mesalamine: implications for anti-inflammation and anti-cancer activity. Mol Cell Biochem 378, 291–298 (2013).

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  • Peroxynitrite
  • Mesalamine
  • DNA strand breaks
  • SIN-1
  • Anti-inflammation and anti-cancer activity