The process of carcinogenesis following exposure of mice to urethane is demonstrated in the present work to be intimately related to nucleic acid synthesis. Injection of animals with a DNA hydrolysate immediately prior to a single exposure of the animals to urethane markedly reduced the number of pulmonary adenomas initiated. Aminopterin, known to interfere in nucleic acid synthesis (46), potentiated the carcinogenic action of urethane and this potentiation was blocked by injection of a DNA hydrolysate.
Of the components and precursors of nucleic acids the pyrimidine series seemed especially concerned. Alterations in the utilization of oxaloacetate, ureidosuccinic acid, dihydro-orotic acid, orotic acid, cytidylic acid, and thymine appeared to be critical steps in the oncogenic process, following upon the primary disorder of cellular metabolism initiated by the carcinogen. All these substances except oxaloacetate profoundly reduced the number of tumors initiated by urethane. Oxaloacetate potentiated the carcinogenic effect.
When these results are viewed together and in relation to known facts concerning nucleic acid synthesis they provide evidence suggesting that the point of action of the carcinogen is in the pathway of nucleic acid synthesis below orotic acid and perhaps at the level of ureidosuccinic acid.
The potentiating influence of adenine, 4-amino-5-imidazole carboxamide, and aminopterin, the lack of effect of uracil, and the inhibitory influence of thymine together suggest that DNA rather than RNA is the nucleic acid critical to the oncogenic response of mice to urethane.