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Carcinogenesis. 2004 May;25(5):827-31. Epub 2003 Dec 19.

Cytotoxic and genotoxic effects of beta-carotene breakdown products on primary rat hepatocytes.

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Institute of Genetics and General Biology, University of Salzburg, Hellbrunnerstrasse 34, A-5020 Salzburg, Austria.


According to Siems and colleagues, free radical attack on beta-carotene results in the formation of high amounts of cleavage products with prooxidant activities towards subcellular organelles such as mitochondria. This finding may be an explanation for the contradictory results obtained with beta-carotene in clinical efficacy and cancer prevention trials. Since primary hepatocytes proved to be very sensitive indicators of the genotoxic action of suspect mutagens/carcinogens we therefore investigated a beta-carotene cleavage products mixture (CP), apo8'- carotenal (apo8') and beta-carotene utilizing primary cultures of rat hepatocytes. The end-points tested were: the mitotic index, the percentage of necrotic and apoptotic cells, micronucleated cells, chromosomal aberrations and sister chromatid exchanges (SCE). Our results indicate a genotoxic potential of both CP and apo8' already at the concentrations 100 nM and 1 microM, i.e. at pathophysiologically relevant levels of beta-carotene and beta-carotene breakdown products. A 3 h treatment with CP induced statistically significant levels of micronuclei at concentrations of 0.1, 1 and 10 microM and chromosomal aberrations at concentrations of 1, 5 and 10 microM. Apo8' induced statistically significant levels of micronuclei at concentrations of 0.1, 1 and 5 microM and chromosomal aberrations at concentrations of 0.1, 1 and 10 microM. Statistically significant increases in SCE induction were only observed at a concentration of 10 microM CP and apo8'. In contrast, no significant cytotoxic effects of these substances were observed. Since beta-carotene induced neither significant cytotoxic nor genotoxic effects at concentrations ranging from 0.01 up to 10 microM, these observations indicate that most likely beta-carotene breakdown products are responsible for the occurrence of carcinogenic effects found in the Alpha-Tocopherol Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Study and the Beta-CArotene and RETinol Efficacy Trial (CARET).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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