1. The amounts of 7-methylguanine and O6-methylguanine present in the DNA of liver and kidney of rats 4h and 24h after administration of low doses of dimethylnitrosamine were measured. 2. O6-Methylguanine was rapidly removed from liver DNA so that less than 15% of the expected amount (on the basis of 7-methylguanine found) was present within 4h after doses of 0.25mg/kg body wt. or less. Within 24h of administration of dimethylnitrosamine at doses of 1mg/kg or below, more than 85% of the expected amount of O6-methylguanine was removed. Removal was most efficient (defined in terms of the percentage of the O6-methylguanine formed that was subsequently lost within 24h) after doses of 0.25–0.5mg/kg body wt. At doses greater or less than this the removal was less efficient, even though the absolute amount of O6-methylguanine lost during 24h increased with the dose of dimethylnitrosamine over the entire range of doses from 0.001 to 20mg/kg body wt. 3. Alkylation of kidney DNA after intraperitoneal injections of 1–50μg of dimethylnitrosamine/kg body wt. occurred at about one-tenth the extent of alkylation of liver DNA. Removal of O6-methylguanine from the DNA also took place in the kidney, but was slower than in the liver. 4. After oral administration of these doses of dimethylnitrosamine, the alkylation of kidney DNA was much less than after intraperitoneal administration and represented only 1–2% of that found in the liver. 5. Alkylation of liver and kidney DNA was readily detectable when measured 24h after the final injection in rats that received daily injections of 1μg of [3H]dimethylnitrosamine/kg for 2 or 3 weeks. After 3 weeks, O6-methylguanine contents in the liver DNA were about 1% of the 7-methylguanine contents. The amount of 7-methylguanine in the liver DNA was 10 times that in the kidney DNA, but liver O6-methylguanine contents were only twice those in the kidney. 6. Extracts able to catalyse the removal of O6-methylguanine from alkylated DNA in vitro were isolated from liver and kidney. These extracts did not lead to the loss of 7-methylguanine from DNA. 7. The possible relevance of the formation and removal of O6-methylguanine in DNA to the risk of tumour induction by exposure to low concentrations of dimethylnitrosamine is discussed.

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