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Environ Health Perspect. 1997 Jun; 105(Suppl 4): 913–918.
PMCID: PMC1470028
Research Article

DNA damage-inducible genes as biomarkers for exposures to environmental agents.


A biodosimetric approach to determine alpha-particle dose to the respiratory tract epithelium from known exposures to radon has been developed in the rat. Cytotoxicity assays have been used to obtain dose-conversion factors for cumulative exposures typical of those encountered by underground uranium miners. However, this approach is not sensitive enough to derive dose-conversion factors for indoor radon exposures. The expression of DNA damage-inducible genes is being investigated as a biomarker of exposure to radon progeny. Exposure of cultures of A549 cells to alpha particles resulted in an increase in the protein levels of the DNA damage-inducible genes, p53, Cip1, and Gadd45. These protein changes were associated with a transient arrest of cells passing through the cell cycle. This arrest was typified by an increase in the number of cells in the G1 and G2 phases and a decrease in the number of cells in the S phase. The effect of inhaled alpha particles (radon progeny) in rats was examined in the epithelial cells of the lateral well of the anterior nasal cavity. Exposures to radon progeny resulted in a significant increase in the number of cells in the G1 phase and a decrease in the number of cells in the S phase. These cell-cycle changes were concomitant with an increase in the number of cells containing DNA strand breaks. These results suggest a commonality between cell-cycle events in vitro and in vivo following exposure to ionizing radiation. In addition to ionizing radiation, A549 cells were exposed to 4-nitroquinoline-1-oxide, methyl methanesulphonate, crocidolite asbestos, and glass microfiber. These studies showed that physical and chemical agents induce different expression patterns of p53, Cip1, and Gadd153 proteins and they could be used to discriminate between toxic and nontoxic materials such as asbestos and glass microfiber. The measurement of gene expression in A549 cells may provide a means to identify a broad spectrum of physical and chemical toxicants encountered in the environment.

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Selected References

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Articles from Environmental Health Perspectives are provided here courtesy of National Institute of Environmental Health Science


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