Effects of Ultrasound on Nucleic Acid Bases

James R. McKee, Chris L. Christman, Shih Yi Wang, William D. O'Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To understand the effects of ultrasound in biological systems at the molecular level, sonolysis of nucleic acid bases at sonic intensities ≤5 W/cm2 was studied. These sonoreactions were followed by UV-spectral decrease and by sonoproduct analysis. The order of reactivity was found to be thymine > uracil > cytosine > guanine > adenine. The extent of sonoreactions depends on the exposure time and the rate of the intensity. Aeration was necessary for maintenance of a reasonable reaction rate. “Threshold” intensities for uracil and thymine were observed at ~0.5 W/cm2. The effectiveness of the dissolved gases in producing sonoreactions was Ar > O2 > air > N2 > He > N2O, suggestive of free radicals mediating these reactions since N2O is an effective radical scavenger. Studies of the effects of substituents have shown that electronic rather than steric effects may have a greater influence. Preliminary identification indicates that cis- and trans-uracil glycols are the major products of uracil. Thus, a stepwise mechanism of pyrimidine sonolysis is proposed. Sonolysis of a dilute aqueous solution of uracil yielded pseudo-first-order kinetics in terms of [Ura] with a rate constant of 3.9 × 10-2 min-1, implying that the rate-limiting step is the reaction of HO· with the base.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4651-4654
Number of pages4
Issue number21
StatePublished - Oct 1 1977

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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