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Cooling at 4 degrees C is routinely used to lower metabolism and preserve cell and tissue integrity in laboratory and clinical settings, including organ transplantation. However, cooling and rewarming produce cell damage, attributed primarily to a burst of reactive oxygen species (ROS) upon rewarming. While DNA represents a highly vulnerable target of ROS, it is unknown whether cooling and/or rewarming produces DNA damage. Here, we show that cooling alone suffices to produce extensive DNA damage in cultured primary cells and cell lines, including double-strand breaks (DSBs), as shown by comet assay and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. Cooling-induced DSB formation is time- and temperature-dependent and coincides with an excess production of ROS, rather than a decrease in ATP levels. Immunohistochemistry confirmed that DNA damage activates the DNA damage response marked by the formation of nuclear foci of proteins involved in DSB repair, gamma-H2Ax, and 53BP1. Subsequent rewarming for 24 h fails to recover ATP levels and only marginally lowers DSB amounts and nuclear foci. Precluding ROS formation by dopamine and the hydroxychromanol, Sul-121, dose-dependently reduces DSBs. Finally, a standard clinical kidney transplant procedure, using cold static storage in UW preservation solution up to 24 h in porcine kidney, lowered ATP, increased ROS, and produced increasing amounts of DSBs with recruitment of 53BP1. Given that DNA repair is erroneous by nature, cooling-inflicted DNA damage may affect cell survival, proliferation, and genomic stability, significantly impacting cellular and organ function, with relevance in stem cell and transplantation procedures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalCell Transplantation
Early online date8-Jul-2022
Publication statusPublished - 8-Jul-2022


  • 53BP1
  • cooling
  • DNA strand breaks
  • gamma-H2Ax
  • reactive oxygen species
  • transplantation

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