Molecular dosimetry studies of forward mutation induced at the yg2 locus in maize by ethyl methanesulfonate

William E. Schy, Michael J. Plewa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The yg2 assay in Zea mays detects forward mutation in somatic cells within leaf primordia of embryos and it was used in an analysis of the molecular dosimetry of ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS). Parallel genetic and molecular dosimetry experiments were conducted in which the frequency of forward mutation and the level of covalently bound ethyl DNA adducts were determined. Prepared kernels were treated for 8 h at 20° Cwith 1-10 mM EMS. EMS induced a direct concentration-dependent increase in mutation induction proportional to the exposure concentration (slope = 0.93). The kinetics of mutation induction demonstrated in the intact maize system were consistent with the kinetics observed earlier in in vitro model systems using cultured mammalian cells, and contrasted with the exponential increase in mutation induction characteristic of microbial species. Parallel molecular dosimetry experiments were conducted using [3H]EMS. DNA was extracted and purified from embryonic tissues containing the leaf primorida, the target tissue of the yg2 assay. A linear increase in the molecular dose was observed as a function of EMS concentration. Using concentration as a common parameter between the parallel genetic and dosimetry studies, mutation induction appeared to increase nearly in a direct proportion to the molecular dose. However, studies in other genetic systems indicate that the levels of specific DNA adducts, such as O6-ethylguanine (O6-EtGua) show a better correlation with mutation induction kinetics than molecular dose. Neither molecular dose, nor O6-EtGua levels account for differences in the absolute frequencies of mutation induction observed in different genetic systems. Therefore, reliable assessment of health risks posed to humans by chemical mutagens appears to require consideration of other factors in addition to DNA dose or adduct formation, including differences in repair capabilities and in the size of the genetic targets in human relative to the model genetic systems under study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-241
Number of pages11
JournalMutation Research - Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1989


  • Ethyl methanesulphonate
  • Forward mutation
  • Molecular dosimetry
  • Zea mays, yg2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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