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Epichlorohydrin (ECH), an important chemical in the synthetic polymer industry, is a bifunctional alkylating agent with the potential to form DNA interstrand crosslinks. Occupational exposure to this suspect carcinogen leads to chromosomal aberrations, and ECH has been shown to undergo reaction with DNA in vivo and in vitro. We are using denaturing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis to assess cross-linking of synthetic DNA oligomers by both ECH and the related compound, epibromohydrin (EBH). Both epihalohydrins produce a low-mobility band on denaturing gels consistent with an interstrand cross-link. Moreover, the efficiencies, sequence preferences, reaction kinetics, and pH dependence differ for the two compounds, suggesting different mechanisms of reaction. Understanding these alkylation reactions may help explain the role of the epihalohydrins in cancer development.


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