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Environ Mol Mutagen. 2011 Aug;52(7):569-81. doi: 10.1002/em.20658. Epub 2011 Jul 4.

Measures of genotoxicity in Gulf war I veterans exposed to depleted uranium.

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  • 1Occupational Health Program, Department of Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, USA.


Exposure to depleted uranium (DU), an alpha-emitting heavy metal, has prompted the inclusion of markers of genotoxicity in the long-term medical surveillance of a cohort of DU-exposed Gulf War veterans followed since 1994. Using urine U (uU) concentration as the measure of U body burden, the cohort has been stratified into low-u (<0.10 μg U/g creatinine) and high-u groups (≥ 0.10 μg U/g creatinine). Surveillance outcomes for this cohort have historically included markers of mutagenicity and clastogenicity, with past results showing generally nonsignificant differences between low- vs. high-U groups. However, mean hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyl transferase (HPRT) mutant frequencies (MFs) have been almost 50% higher in the high-U group. We report here results of a more comprehensive protocol performed in a 2009 evaluation of a subgroup (N = 35) of this cohort. Four biomarkers of genotoxicity [micronuclei (MN), chromosome aberrations, and MFs of HPRT and PIGA] were examined. There were no statistically significant differences in any outcome measure when results were compared between the low- vs. high-U groups. However, modeling of the HPRT MF results suggests a possible threshold effect for MFs occurring in the highest U exposed cohort members. Mutational spectral analysis of HPRT mutations is underway to clarify a potential clonal vs. a threshold uU effect to explain this observation. This study provides a comprehensive evaluation of a human population chronically exposed to DU and demonstrates a relatively weak genotoxic effect of the DU exposure. These results may explain the lack of clear epidemiologic evidence for U carcinogenicity in humans. Environ. Mol. Mutagen., 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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