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Mutat Res. 1992 Aug;268(2):297-305.

Clastogenicity of low pH to various cultured mammalian cells.

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Tsukuba Research Laboratories, Nippon Glaxo Ltd., Ibaraki, Japan.


It has been reported that low pH itself can be clastogenic to Chinese hamster ovary cells or mouse lymphoma L5178Y cells. On the other hand, there was no indication that low pH is clastogenic to rat or human lymphocytes. Therefore, in order to evaluate the generality of clastogenicity of low pH conditions, chromosomal aberration tests were carried out on Chinese hamster cell line cells (CHO-K1, CHL, Don and V79 379A) and human cells (HeLa and peripheral lymphocytes used as whole-blood cultures). The cytotoxicity of low pH to each cell line was also evaluated by counting surviving cells. The treatment medium used was Eagle's MEM containing 15 mM MES or Bis-Tris as an organic buffer to maintain the acidity of the medium for the 6-h or 24-h treatment period, and pH adjustment was done with NaOH or HCl. Chromosomal aberrations were induced at pH 6.5 or below in CHO or CHL cells, and the maximum frequency was 24.7% at pH 6.0 or 34% at pH 6.3, respectively. About 5-10% of Don or HeLa cells had aberrations over the range of pH 6.6-6.0 or pH 6.6-6.3, respectively. In V79 379A cells or human lymphocytes, however, aberrant cells amounted to about 8% at near pH 6.0, where cell survival was low (less than 20%). About 90% of aberrations induced in each cell line examined were chromatid-type gaps and breaks. When CHO or CHL cells were treated with acidic medium for 6 h plus 18 h recovery in fresh medium, about 20% of cells had aberrations including chromatid exchanges at pH 5.5 or pH 5.7, respectively. These results indicate that clastogenicity of low pH is a general finding, although the extent of it varies with cell type, and that the clastogenicity is associated with varying extents of cytotoxicity. The mechanisms of clastogenesis at low pH are not known, but might involve inhibition of DNA or protein synthesis or DNA-repair enzymes.

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