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Mutagenesis. 2001 Nov;16(6):487-93.

Effect of the dithiocarbamate pesticide zineb and its commercial formulation azzurro. I. Genotoxic evaluation on cultured human lymphocytes exposed in vitro.

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  • 1Laboratorio de Citogenética, Cátedra de Citología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Calle 37 Numero 668 7mo 'B', Argentina.


The in vitro cytogenetic effects exerted by the dithiocarbamate fungicide zineb and one of its commercial formulations currently used in Argentina, azzurro, were studied in whole blood human lymphocyte cultures. The genotoxicity of the fungicides was measured by analysis of the frequency of chromosomal aberrations and sister chromatid exchanges (SCEs) and cell cycle progression assays. Both zineb and azzurro activities were tested within the range 0.1-100.0 microg/ml immediately after in vitro lymphocyte stimulation. Only concentrations of 50.0 and 100.0 microg/ml zineb and azzurro induced a significant increase in SCE frequency over control values. Furthermore, this genotoxicity appears to be correlated with its cytotoxicity, measured as cell cycle kinetics, since both a significant delay in cell cycle progression and a significant reduction in proliferative rate index were only observed in those cultures treated with these fungicide concentrations. For both chemicals, a progressive dose-related inhibition of the mitotic activity of cultures was observed when increasing the fungicide concentration. Moreover, only the mitotic activity statistically differed from control values when doses of zineb or azzurro <10 microg/ml were employed. For both fungicides the mitotic index reached the minimal value at doses of 100 microg/ml. Both products induced a significant dose-dependent increase in the number of abnormal cells, chromatid-type and chromosome-type aberrations as well as in the total number of aberrations in the 0.1-100.0 microg/ml dose range. Based on these results, the evaluation of zineb as a controversial genotoxic/non-genotoxic compound for human health should be reconsidered. Instead, we demonstrate that the fungicide induces large DNA alterations and should be considered as a clastogenic mutagen.

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