The mechanism by which 5-bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) inhibits cell differentiation is unresolved. The ability of deoxycytidine to reverse the inhibition of myogenesis produced by BrdU has been cited as evidence that the inhibition is not a direct result of the incorporation of BrdU into cellular DNA. In contrast to previous work, the present study demonstrates a direct correlation between the effects of deoxycytidine on myogenic cells and a reduction in the substitution of BrdU for thymidine in the DNA. Furthermore, the reversal occurs at the same degree of BrdU substitution (20-30%) as is required to inhibit myogenesis when cells are grown in BrdU alone or with deoxycytidine in a medium that prevents the conversion of deoxycytidine to thymidine. The effects of deoxycytidine thus do not support a mechanism of action of BrdU in myogenic cells independent of its effects on DNA.
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