Organochlorinated pesticides expedite the enzymatic degradation of DNA

Chao Qin, Bing Yang, Wei Zhang, Wanting Ling, Cun Liu, Juan Liu, Xu Li, Yanzheng Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Extracellular DNA in the environment may play important roles in genetic diversity and biological evolution. However, the influence of environmental persistent organic contaminants such as organochlorinated pesticides (e.g., hexachlorocyclohexanes [HCHs]) on the enzymatic degradation of extracellular DNA has not been elucidated. In this study, we observed expedited enzymatic degradation of extracellular DNA in the presence of α-HCH, β-HCH and γ-HCH. The HCH-expedited DNA degradation was not due to increased deoxyribonuclease I (DNase I) activity. Our spectroscopic and computational results indicate that HCHs bound to DNA bases (most likely guanine) via Van der Waals forces and halogen bonds. This binding increased the helicity and accumulation of DNA base pairs, leading to a more compact DNA structure that exposed more sites susceptible to DNase I and thus expedited DNA degradation. This study provided insight into the genotoxicity and ecotoxicity of pesticides and improved our understanding of DNA persistence in contaminated environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number81
JournalCommunications biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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