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Abstract

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are the products of incomplete combustion of organic materials, which are present in cigarette smoke, deep-fried food, and in natural crude oil. Since PAH-metabolites form DNA adducts and cause oxidative DNA damage, we asked if these environmental carcinogens could affect transforming potential of the human Polyomavirus JC oncoprotein, T-antigen (JCV T-antigen). We extracted DMSO soluble PAHs from Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (oil-PAHs), and detected several carcinogenic PAHs. The oil-PAHs were tested in exponentially growing cultures of normal mouse fibroblasts (R508), and in R508 stably expressing JCV T-antigen (R508/T). The oil-PAHs were cytotoxic only at relatively high doses (1:50–1:100 dilution), and at 1:500 dilution the growth and cell survival rates were practically unaffected. This non-toxic dose triggered however, a significant accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), caused oxidative DNA damage and the formation of DNA double strand breaks (DSBs). Although oil-PAHs induced similar levels of DNA damage in R508 and R508/T cells, only T-antigen expressing cells demonstrated inhibition of high fidelity DNA repair by homologous recombination (HRR). In contrast, low-fidelity repair by non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) was unaffected. This potential mutagenic shift between DNA repair mechanisms was accompanied by a significant increase in clonal growth of R508/T cells chronically exposed to low doses of the oil-PAHs. Our results indicate for the first time carcinogenic synergy in which oil-PAHs trigger oxidative DNA damage and JCV T-antigen compromises DNA repair fidelity. J. Cell. Physiol. 228: 2127–2138, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.