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Mutat Res. 2004 Mar 14;558(1-2):81-92.

Effects of asbestos on initiation of DNA damage, induction of DNA-strand breaks, P53-expression and apoptosis in primary, SV40-transformed and malignant human mesothelial cells.

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Department of Biology, Institute of Cell Biology, University of Rostock, Rostock, Germany.


Human mesothelial cells (HMC), the progenitor cells of asbestos-induced mesothelioma, are particularly sensitive to the genotoxic effects of asbestos, although the molecular mechanisms by which asbestos induces injury in HMC are not well known. The high susceptibility of HMC to simian virus 40 (SV40)-mediated transformation is assumed to play a causative role in the pathogenesis of mesothelioma. The aim of this study was to investigate the asbestos-induced DNA damage in cultured HMC and SV40-transformed HMC (MeT-5A) compared with their malignant counterparts, i.e. human mesothelioma cells (MSTO). The time-dependent initiation of DNA-strand breaks as well as the induction of oxidative DNA base modifications were key factors for investigation. HMC, MeT-5A and MSTO cells were exposed to chrysotile and crocidolite asbestos (3 microg/cm2) during different time periods (1-72 h). DNA damage was investigated by use of the Comet assay and alkaline unwinding, the latter in combination with the Fpg protein. The P53 level was analyzed by immunofluorescence, and measurement of apoptosis was conducted by flow cytometry. We found a significant induction of DNA damage in asbestos-treated HMC already after an exposure time of 1.5 h. This effect could not be observed in treated MeT-5A and MSTO cells. Also, a time-dependent significant increase in DNA-strand breaks was observed by alkaline unwinding in asbestos-treated HMC, but not in treated MeT-5A and MSTO cells. In none of the three cell lines we could detect oxidative DNA damage recognized by the Fpg protein (e.g. 8-oxo-guanine), up to 24 h after exposure to asbestos. In contrast to what was found in HMC, P53 was over-expressed in untreated MeT-5A and MSTO. The induction of apoptosis by asbestos fibers was suppressed in MeT-5A and MSTO cells. Crocidolite fibers induced the higher genotoxic effects and chrysotile the more pronounced apoptotic effects. We conclude that asbestos induces DNA damage in HMC already after a very short exposure time in the absence of 8-oxo-guanine formation. The presence of SV40-Tag in MeT-5A and MSTO cells results in an increased expression of P53, but not in additive genotoxic effects after exposure to asbestos. The deregulation of the apoptotic pathway may lead to proliferation of genomically damaged cells and finally to the development of mesothelioma.

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