The 7-methylguanine adduct in the DNA of rat liver is determined as an indicator of exposure to exogenous and endogenous methylating agents. A method for the analysis of 7-methylguanine adducts has been developed by combining the selectivity of separation of reversed-phase HPLC with the specificity and high sensitivity of electrochemical detection. The sensitivity of the method is about 10,000-fold that of optical methods and is sufficient to determine the endogenous background of DNA methylation. DNA from the liver of normal young rats (6 months old) contains 7-methylguanine at a level of 1 residue per 31,000 bases in mitochondrial DNA and 1 residue per 105,000 bases in nuclear DNA. These levels increase about 2.5-fold in old rats (24 months old). We attribute this strikingly high level of adducts to endogenous methylation, which could contribute to aging and cancer
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