Huang Y-S, Held G, Andrews JE, Rogers JM. 2001. 14C-Methanol incorporation into DNA and specific proteins of organogenesis-stage mouse embryos in vitro. Reprod Toxicol 15:429–435.
Methanol (MeOH), a widely used industrial solvent and alternative motor fuel, has been shown to be mutagenic and teratogenic. We have demonstrated that methanol is teratogenic in mice in vivo and causes dysmorphogenesis in cultured organogenesis stage mouse embryos. Although MeOH is a product of endogenous metabolism in the gut and can be found in humans following consumption of various foods, elevated levels of methanol could lead to methylation of cellular macromolecules. DNA methylation has been demonstrated to suppress transcription of fetal genes and may also play an important role in genetic imprinting. Embryonal proteins are also potential targets for methanol-induced methylation. We investigated the potential of administered methanol to incorporate into and/or alter the methylation of embryonal DNA or to affect specific protein methylation. Gestational day 8 CD-1 mouse embryos were grown for 24 h in culture medium (CM) with 0, 4, or 8 mg MeOH + 20 microCi (14)C-MeOH/mL. At the end of the culture period, yolk sacs and embryos were separated for each treatment group. The DNA was purified by cesium chloride gradient centrifugation in the presence of ethidium bromide and (14)C incorporation was determined. Methylation of a selected gene, Hoxc-8, was assessed by using methylation-specific restriction enzymes. The (14)C activity was found superimposed over the DNA-containing fraction, indicating incorporation. DNA from embryos treated with 4 mg MeOH/mL CM gave the highest incorporation of (14)C-MeOH (8 mg/mL was growth inhibiting). Methylation of Hoxc-8 appeared to be increased in embryos treated with 4 mg MeOH/mL CM, but not in embryos treated with 8 mg MeOH/mL. Lack of incorporation of methylation at the higher concentration may be due to the failure of embryos to grow at this concentration of MeOH. The incorporation of (14)C-MeOH into embryo proteins was investigated by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) and autoradiography. Incorporation of (14)C-MeOH into specific proteins was observed but the labeling specificity was not methanol dose-related. These results indicate that methyl groups from (14)C-MeOH are incorporated into mouse embryo DNA and protein. Our results further suggest that methanol exposure may increase genomic methylation under certain conditions which could lead to altered gene expression.