Although antibodies directed against bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) are being used in both clinical and basic research laboratories as tools to study and monitor DNA synthesis, little is known about the epitopes with which they react. Four monoclonal antibodies directed against BrdU were produced and were characterized to learn more about the epitopes on BrdU which are important for antibody recognition, to identify compounds other than BrdU which react with the antibodies and which might interfere with immunologic assays for BrdU, and to characterize the reaction of these antibodies with BrdU-containing DNA. By radioimmunoassays, the antibodies generally reacted well with 5-iododeoxyuridine, 5-fluorodeoxyuridine, and 5-nitrouracil. However, none of the antibodies reacted well with uridine--indicating that a substituent on uridine C5 was essential for antibody reactivity--or with 5-bromo- or iodo-cytosine, indicating that the region around pyrimidine C4 is important for antibody recognition. Although the antibodies reacted with 5-halogen-substituted uracil bases, the antibodies reacted much better with the corresponding halogenated nucleosides, indicating that the sugar moiety was important for recognition. The presence of a triphosphate group on C'5 of BrdU (i.e., BrdUTP) did not detectably alter antibody recognition. Three of the antibodies reacted only with purified DNA containing BrdU, whereas one antibody, which exhibited a weak interaction with thymidine, also reacted with BrdU-free DNA. S1 nuclease treatment of purified DNA suggested that all four monoclonal antibodies reacted exclusively with single-stranded regions of BrdU-containing DNA. Comparison of detecting DNA synthesis by [3H]TdR incorporation followed by autoradiography with that by BrdU incorporation followed by indirect immunofluorescence indicated that the latter technique was both an accurate and a sensitive measure of DNA synthesis.

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