The heat-induced conversion of 5-methylcytosine (m5C) residues to thymine residues and of cytosine to uracil residues in single-stranded DNA was studied. The calculated rates for deamination at 37 degrees C and pH 7.4 were approximately 9.5 X 10(-10) and 2.1 X 10(-10) sec-1, respectively. N4-Methyldeoxycytidine, which is in the DNA of certain thermophilic bacteria, was more heat-resistant than was deoxycytidine and much more than was 5-methyldeoxycytidine. Thermophilic bacteria which contain N4-methylcytosine rather than m5C in their genomes may thereby largely avoid heat-induced mutation due to deamination, which is incurred by the many organisms that contain m5C in their DNA.
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