1. The incorporation of methyl groups into histones from dimethylnitrosamine and from methionine was studied by injection of the labelled compounds, isolation of rat liver and kidney histones, and analysis of hydrolysates by column chromatography. 2. Labelled methionine gave rise to labelled ∈-N-methyl-lysine, di-∈-N-methyl-lysine and an amino acid presumed to be ω-N-methyl-arginine. 3. Administration of labelled dimethylnitrosamine gave rise to labelled S-methylcysteine, 1-methylhistidine, 3-methylhistidine and ∈-N-methyl-lysine derived from the alkylating metabolite of dimethylnitrosamine. In addition, labelled formaldehyde released by metabolism of dimethylnitrosamine leads to the formation of labelled S-adenosylmethionine, and hence to labelling of ∈-N-methyl-lysine, di-∈-N-methyl-lysine and ω-N-methylarginine by enzymic methylation. 4. The formation of ∈-N-methyl-lysine by alkylation of liver histones was confirmed by using doubly labelled dimethylnitrosamine to discriminate between direct chemical alkylation and enzymic methylation via S-adenosylmethionine. These experiments also suggested the possibility that methionine residues in the histones were alkylated to give methylmethionine sulphonium residues. 5. The extent of alkylation of liver histones was maximal at about 5h after dosing and declined between 5 and 24h. The methylated amino acids resulting from direct chemical alkylation were preferentially lost: this is ascribed to necrosis of the more highly alkylated cells. 6. Liver histones were about four times as alkylated as kidney histones; the extent of alkylation of liver histones was similar to that of liver total nuclear proteins. 7. Methyl methanesulphonate (120mg/kg) alkylated liver histones to a greater extent than did dimethylnitrosamine. Diethylnitrosamine also alkylated liver histones. 8. The results are discussed with regard to the possible effects of alkylation on histone function, and the possible role of histone alkylation in carcinogenesis by the three compounds.

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