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Toxicol Sci. 2012 Sep;129(1):213-24. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfs177. Epub 2012 May 18.

Subchronic oral exposure to benzo(a)pyrene leads to distinct transcriptomic changes in the lungs that are related to carcinogenesis.

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Environmental and Radiation Health Sciences Directorate, Health Canada, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9, Canada.


We have previously shown that acute oral exposure to the environmental carcinogen benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) elicits comparable levels of DNA adducts, but distinct transcriptomic changes, in mouse lungs and livers, the two main BaP bioactivating organs. Oral BaP exposure is predominantly associated with lung cancer and not hepatic cancer in some animal models, suggesting that gene expression differences may provide insight into the drivers of tissue-specific carcinogenesis. In the present study, we examine pulmonary DNA adduct formation, lacZ mutant frequency, and mRNA profiles in adult male MutaMouse following subchronic (28 day) oral exposure to BaP (0, 25, 50, and 75 mg/kg/day) and sacrificed 3 days postexposure. The results are compared with those obtained from livers of the same mice (previously published). Although there was a 1.8- to 3.3-fold increase in the levels of DNA adducts in lung compared with liver, the lacZ transgene mutant frequency was similar in both tissues. At the transcriptomic level, a transition from activation of the DNA damage response p53 pathway at the low dose to the induction of genes involved in angiogenesis, evasion of apoptosis and growth signals at the high doses was evident only in the lungs. These results suggest that tissue DNA adducts and mutant frequency are sensitive markers of target tissue exposure and mode of action, whereas early changes in gene expression may provide a better indication of the likelihood of carcinogenic transformation in selected tissues. Moreover, the study provides new information on the underlying mechanisms that contribute to tissue-specific responses to BaP.

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