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Carcinogenesis. 1995 Jun;16(6):1305-9.

Transplacental transfer of environmental genotoxins: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-albumin in non-smoking women, and the effect of maternal GSTM1 genotype.

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  • 1Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University of Aarhus, Denmark.


Transplacental transfer of genotoxic material has been determined by measuring the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-albumin adduct level in serum isolated from the mother and the umbilical cord using a competitive ELISA assay and the antibody (8E11) against benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) tetrols. Smoking women (median 5.54 fmol B[a]P equiv/microgram albumin; 21 cases) and non-smoking women living in rural areas (median 4.99; 30) had higher adduct levels than non-smoking women living in suburbia (median 4.09; 37), whereas non-smoking women living in the city of Aarhus had an intermediate level (median 4.82; 40). Exposure to passive smoking did not modify the adduct levels. When all non-smoking cases were combined, the transport time to/from the home became a major contributing factor to the adduct level. The median adduct level in umbilical cord blood was significantly lower than in maternal blood, the maternal/fetal ratio being approximately 1.3, and a positive association between the adduct levels in the mother and umbilical cord blood was observed. The frequency of the GSTM1 null genotype in the study population, females aged 19-44, was 55.4%, but the GSTM1 genotype did not significantly alter the serum albumin adduct level. This study indicates that the competitive ELISA to detect B[a]P bound to serum albumin is sensitive enough to detect differences in the burden of genotoxic compounds in non-occupational exposed individuals. The lower adduct level in people living in suburbia suggests that local production of incomplete combustion products, like vehicle exhaust or heat generation, is the major contributing factor to genotoxic compounds in the general environment.

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