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Mutat Res. 2008 Feb 29;650(2):96-103. Epub 2007 Nov 19.

Unexpected DNA damage caused by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons under standard laboratory conditions.

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Institute of Toxicology, University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany.


The genotoxicity of 15 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons was determined with the alkaline version of the comet assay employing V79 lung fibroblasts of the Chinese hamster as target cells. These cells lack the enzymes necessary to convert PAHs to DNA-binding metabolites. Surprisingly, 11 PAHs, i.e., benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), benz[a]anthracene, 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene, 3-methylcholanthrene, fluoranthene, anthanthrene, 11H-benzo[b]fluorene, dibenz[a,h]anthracene, pyrene, benzo[ghi]perylene and benzo[e]pyrene caused DNA strand breaks even without external metabolic activation, while naphthalene, anthracene, phenanthrene and naphthacene were inactive. When the comet assay was performed in the dark or when yellow fluorescent lamps were used for illumination the DNA-damaging effect of the 11 PAHs disappeared. White fluorescent lamps exhibit emission maxima at 334.1, 365.0, 404.7, and 435.8 nm representing spectral lines of mercury. In the case of yellow fluorescent lamps these emissions were absent. Obviously, under standard laboratory illumination many PAHs are photo-activated, resulting in DNA-damaging species. This feature of PAHs should be taken into account when these compounds are employed for the initiation of skin cancer. The genotoxicity of BaP that is metabolically activated in V79 cells stably expressing human cytochrome P450-dependent monooxygenase (CYP1A1) as well as human epoxide hydrolase (V79-hCYP1A1-mEH) could not be detected with the comet assay performed under yellow light. Likewise the DNA-damaging effect of r-7,t-8-dihydroxy-t-9,10-epoxy-7,8,9,10-tetrahydrobenzo[a]pyrene (anti-BaPDE) observed with the comet assay was only weak. However, upon inhibition of nucleotide excision repair (NER), which is responsible for the removal of stable DNA adducts caused by anti-BaPDE, the tail moment rose 3.4-fold in the case of BaP and 12.9-fold in the case of anti-BaPDE. These results indicate that the genotoxicity of BaP and probably of other compounds producing stable DNA adducts are reliably detected with the comet assay only when NER is inhibited.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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