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DNA Repair (Amst). 2012 Mar 1;11(3):236-46. doi: 10.1016/j.dnarep.2011.11.001. Epub 2011 Dec 18.

Formaldehyde-induced genome instability is suppressed by an XPF-dependent pathway.

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Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR 97239, USA.


Formaldehyde is a reactive chemical that is commonly used in the production of industrial, laboratory, household, and cosmetic products. The causal association between formaldehyde exposure and increased incidence of cancer led the International Agency for Research on Cancer to classify formaldehyde as a carcinogen. Formaldehyde-induced DNA-protein crosslinks (DPCs) elicit responses involving nucleotide excision repair (NER) and homologous recombination (HR) repair pathways; however, little is known about the cellular and genetic changes that subsequently lead to formaldehyde-induced genotoxic and cytotoxic effects. Herein, investigations of genes that modulate the cytotoxic effects of formaldehyde exposure revealed that of five NER-deficient Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cell lines tested, XPF- and ERCC1-deficient cells were most sensitive to formaldehyde treatment as compared to wild-type cells. Cell cycle analyses revealed that formaldehyde-treated XPF-deficient cells exhibited an immediate G2/M arrest that was associated with altered cell ploidy and apoptosis. Additionally, an elevated number of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), chromosomal breaks and radial formation were also observed in XPF-deficient cells following formaldehyde treatment. Formaldehyde-induced DSBs occurred in a replication-dependent, but an XPF-independent manner. However, delayed DSB repair was observed in the absence of XPF function. Collectively, our findings highlight the role of an XPF-dependent pathway in mitigating the sensitivity to formaldehyde-induced DNA damage as evidenced by the increased genomic instability and reduced cell viability in an XPF-deficient background. In addition, centrosome and microtubule abnormalities, as well as enlarged nuclei, caused by formaldehyde exposure are demonstrated in a repair-proficient cell line.

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