Aristolactam-DNA adducts are a biomarker of environmental exposure to aristolochic acid

Bojan Jelaković, Sandra Karanović, Ivana Vuković-Lela, Frederick Miller, Karen L. Edwards, Jovan Nikolić, Karla Tomić, Neda Slade, Branko Brdar, Robert J. Turesky, Želimir Stipancić, Damir Dittrich, Arthur P. Grollman, Kathleen G. Dickman

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133 Scopus citations


Endemic (Balkan) nephropathy is a chronic tubulointerstitial disease frequently accompanied by urothelial cell carcinomas of the upper urinary tract. This disorder has recently been linked to exposure to aristolochic acid, a powerful nephrotoxin and human carcinogen. Following metabolic activation, aristolochic acid reacts with genomic DNA to form aristolactam-DNA adducts that generate a unique TP53 mutational spectrum in the urothelium. The aristolactam-DNA adducts are concentrated in the renal cortex, thus serving as biomarkers of internal exposure to aristolochic acid. Here, we present molecular epidemiologic evidence relating carcinomas of the upper urinary tract to dietary exposure to aristolochic acid. DNA was extracted from the renal cortex and urothelial tumor tissue of 67 patients that underwent nephroureterectomy for carcinomas of the upper urinary tract and resided in regions of known endemic nephropathy. Ten patients from nonendemic regions with carcinomas of the upper urinary tract served as controls. Aristolactam-DNA adducts were quantified by 32P-postlabeling, the adduct was confirmed by mass spectrometry, and TP53 mutations in tumor tissues were identified by chip sequencing. Adducts were present in 70% of the endemic cohort and in 94% of patients with specific A:T to T:A mutations in TP53. In contrast, neither aristolactam-DNA adducts nor specific mutations were detected in tissues of patients residing in nonendemic regions. Thus, in genetically susceptible individuals, dietary exposure to aristolochic acid is causally related to endemic nephropathy and carcinomas of the upper urinary tract.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-567
Number of pages9
JournalKidney international
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Andrea Fernandes and Gyongyi Mihalyne for expert technical assistance, Sava Mićić and Cane Tulić for advice and support, and Annette Oestreicher for editorial expertise. The research described was supported by award 5 P01 ES04068 (APG) and award R01 ES019564 (RJT) from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, award 1R03TW007042 from the Fogarty International Center of the NIH, the Zickler Family Foundation (KGD), and award 108-0000000-0329 from the Croatian Ministry of Science.


  • Aristolochia
  • DNA adducts
  • aristolochic acid
  • endemic nephropathy
  • nephrotoxicity
  • upper urinary tract cancer


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