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Mutat Res. 2000 Feb 16;465(1-2):91-9.

Enumeration of micronucleated reticulocytes in rat peripheral blood: a flow cytometric study.

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Litron Laboratories, 1351 Mount Hope Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620, USA.


Micronuclei (MN) are routinely enumerated in mouse peripheral blood to index genotoxicity. Recent data from the Collaborative Study Group for the Micronucleus Test (CSGMT) [CSGMT (The Collaborative Study Group for the Micronucleus Test), Evaluation of the rat micronucleus test with bone marrow and peripheral blood: summary of the 9th collaborative study by CSGMT/JEMS MMS, Environ. Mol. Mutagen. 32 (1998) 84-100] suggest that rat peripheral blood may also be appropriate for the enumeration of MN, if scoring is limited to the youngest fraction of reticulocytes. The experiments described herein were designed to test whether modifications to a flow cytometric scoring procedure for measuring micronucleated reticulocytes (MN-RET) in mouse peripheral blood could be extended to accurately enumerate MN in rat peripheral blood. Rats were treated with saline or one of three genotoxic agents (6-mercaptopurine, ethyl methanesulfonate or propane sultone) in an acute dosing protocol. Peripheral blood samples were subsequently collected for both microscopic and flow cytometric analysis. Micronucleus frequencies were scored in the youngest fraction of reticulocytes: scoring by microscopy was restricted to the types I and II reticulocytes based on RNA content utilizing acridine orange supravital staining; flow cytometric measurements were restricted to the youngest fraction of reticulocytes based on transferrin receptor (CD71) staining. A statistically significant dose-related increase in the incidence of MN was observed, irrespective of scoring method. A higher level of statistical discrimination between control and genotoxin-treated groups was observed for the flow cytometric data and can most likely be explained by the increased number of cells scored (10x more than microscopy) and the lower scoring variability. Together, these data suggest that (i) rat peripheral blood represents an appropriate compartment for evaluating genotoxin-induced MN when the analysis is restricted to young reticulocytes, and (ii) the measurement of MN in rat peripheral blood reticulocytes benefits from the high throughput methodology of flow cytometry.

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