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Mutat Res. 1999 Mar;436(2):137-56.

Genotoxicity testing of biotechnology-derived products. Report of a GUM task force. Gesellschaft für Umweltmutationsforschung.

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  • 1F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Pharma Division, Department of Toxicology, CH-4070, Basel, Switzerland.


Various aspects of genotoxicity testing of biotechnology-derived products are discussed based on information gathered from a questionnaire which was sent to about 30 predominantly European companies. Feedback was received from 13 companies on 78 compounds, mostly recombinant proteins but also on a number of nonrecombinant proteins, which had been assessed for genotoxicity in a total of 177 tests. Four of the 78 compounds appeared to elicit reproducible genotoxic effects. For one of these compounds, the activity could be related to a nonpeptidic linker molecule. No scientifically convincing rationale for the other three compounds could be established, although, at least for two compounds, their activity may be connected with the enzymatic/hormonal activity. In addition to the survey, published reports on genotoxicity testing of biotechnology products were reviewed. The data are discussed relative to whether genotoxicity testing is a valuable exercise when assessing potentially toxic liabilities of biotechnology-derived compounds. It is concluded that genotoxicity testing is generally inappropriate and unnecessary, a position which is in accordance with the available guidelines addressing this area. For the 'average' protein, electrophilic reactions are difficult to envision. Indirect reactions via DNA metabolism and growth regulation seem possible for only very specific proteins such as nucleases, growth factors, cytokines. No information on testing of different types of biotechnology-derived products (e.g., ribozymes, antisense-oligonucleotides, DNA vaccines) has been received in the questionnaires. Discussion of their potential to cause genotoxic changes was based on literature reports. Even for those products for which concerns of genotoxic/tumourigenic potential cannot be completely ruled out, e.g., because of their interaction with DNA metabolism or proliferation control, the performance of standard genotoxicity assays generally appears to be of little value. All information, including also information on the occurrence of genotoxic impurities, has been utilized to formulate a decision tree approach for the genotoxicity testing of biotechnology-derived products.

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