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Toxicol Lett. 2009 Nov 12;190(3):271-85. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2009.04.031. Epub 2009 May 13.

General 4-week toxicity study with EMS in the rat.

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  • 1Preclinical Research, F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., PRNBT, Bldg 073/102c, CH-4070 Basel, Switzerland.


In this subacute toxicity study, ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS) was administered daily by oral gavage to SPF-bred Wistar rats of both sexes at dose levels of 20, 60 and 180/120 mg/kg body weight (bw)/day for a period of 28 days (for 19 days in the high-dose group). A control group was treated similarly with the vehicle, bidistilled water, only. The groups comprised 10 animals per sex, which were sacrificed after 28 days, respectively 19 days in the high-dose group, of treatment. Additional five rats per sex and group were treated accordingly and then allowed a 14 days treatment-free recovery period. Additional six rats per sex and group (three rats per sex in the control group) were treated accordingly and used for hemoglobin adduct analysis after EMS exposure. All animals survived until their scheduled necropsy. Treatment with EMS had a direct dose-dependent effect on food consumption and consequently on body weight at doses > or =20mg/kgbw/day in male rats and at > or =60 mg/kgbw/day in females rats. Hence, treatment with the high dose of 180 mg/kgbw/day had to be interrupted for 9 days after which, the animals were re-dosed at 120 mg/kgbw/day. This dose was also poorly tolerated over the remaining two treatment weeks causing again a marked reduction in food consumption and body weight. A dose of 60 mg/kgbw/day was moderately tolerated over 4 weeks treatment with mean daily food consumption and body weight distinctly lower than in controls. Primary targets of systemic toxicity were the hematopoietic system, thymolymphatic system and sexual organs. Characteristic changes in hematology parameters were decreased red blood cell counts, hematocrit, and hemoglobin concentration. White blood cell counts were also decreased due to reduced lymphocyte and granulocyte populations of each fraction. The corresponding histopathology findings were fatty atrophy of bone marrow and minimal hypocellularity of the white pulp of the spleen. Similarly, treatment with EMS caused an involution of the thymolymphatic system characterized by decreased organ weight of thymus, lymph nodes, and spleen microscopically associated with atrophy of the thymus and hypocellularity of Peyer's patches, lymph nodes and the white pulp of the spleen. The effects on sexual organs included lower organ weight/reduced size for testes, epididymides, seminal vesicles, prostate, and uterus. Tubular atrophy, single cell necrosis of the germ cells and in epididymides reduced spermatozoa were recorded microscopically. The described findings occurred at doses of 60 and 180/120 mg/kgbw/day and were dose-dependent with regard to incidence and severity. Other target organs were the pancreas (acinar cell vacuolation), thyroid gland (follicular cell hypertrophy), and salivary gland (secretory depletion of convoluted ducts). The systemic exposure to EMS was monitored by hemoglobin ethylvaline adduct measurement. The concentration of hemoglobin ethylvaline adducts was linear with the dose and accumulated 11-26-fold over the treatment period. In summary, decreases in food consumption and body weight were the dose-limiting effects of treatment with EMS. Organ toxicity was characterized by depression of cell proliferation (hematopoiesis and spermatogenesis) and changes suggestive of reduced metabolism and/or physiological imbalances (e.g. thymolymphatic system and thyroid gland) without signs of inflammatory or necrotic lesions. For some findings, especially the effects on the thymolymphatic system and sexual organs, it cannot be excluded that starvation-like condition contributed to the occurrence of such changes. The low dose of 20 mg/kgbw/day was basically free of adverse effects despite of a clear evidence for hemoglobin adducts.

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