This study was designed to test the hypothesis that poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) plays a role in the repair of damage to mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). A rat insulinoma cell line was transfected with a PARP antisense vector that was under the control of a dexamethasone promoter. Transfected cells were selected for stable integration of the antisense vector. Several cell lines containing the antisense vector were isolated. For these studies, one of these lines (clone 5) was chosen for further evaluation. When cells were treated with dexamethasone for 72 h, PARP activity was diminished by 60%. Western blot analysis revealed a concomitant reduction in PARP protein. When clone 5 cells were exposed to the simple methylating agent methylnitrosourea (MNU) without previous treatment with dexamethasone, repair of lesions in mtDNA was found to be similar to that seen in wild-type cells or in wild-type cells treated with dexamethasone. However, when clone 5 cells were pretreated with dexamethasone for 72 h, repair of MNU-induced damage was significantly inhibited. To ascertain whether the PARP activity that was inhibited by the antisense treatment was the same as that found in the nucleus, repair studies were performed on fibroblasts derived from PARP knockout mice and their normal wild-type controls. Attenuated repair was also seen in the cells in which the gene for PARP was inactivated. These are the first studies to demonstrate that PARP can facilitate the repair of simple alkylation damage to mtDNA.

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