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Mutagenesis. 2019 May 29;34(2):203-214. doi: 10.1093/mutage/gez003.

Telomere length and genotoxicity in the lung of rats following intragastric exposure to food-grade titanium dioxide and vegetable carbon particles.

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Department of Public Health, Section of Environmental Health, Frederiksberg C, Denmark.
Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology, Section of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, Frederiksberg C, Denmark.
Experimental Animal Models, Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg C, Denmark.


Vegetable carbon (E153) and titanium dioxide (E171) are widely used as black and white food colour additives. The aim of this study was to assess gastrointestinal tight junction and systemic genotoxic effects in rats following exposure to E153 and E171 for 10 weeks by oral gavage once a week. The expression of tight junction proteins was assessed in intestinal tissues. Levels of DNA strand breaks, oxidatively damaged DNA and telomere length were assessed in secondary organs. Hydrodynamic suspensions of E153 and E173 indicated mean particles sizes of 230 and 270 nm, respectively, and only E153 gave rise to intracellular production of reactive oxygen species in colon epithelial (Caco-2) cells. Rats exposed to E153 (6.4 mg/kg/week) or E171 (500 mg/kg/week) had decreased gene expression of the tight junction protein TJP1 (P < 0.05). E153 (6.4 mg/kg/week) also decreased OCLN (P < 0.05) in the colon and occludin protein expression in the small intestine (P < 0.05). Furthermore, E153 or E171 exposed rats had shorter telomeres in the lung (P < 0.05). Plasma from particle-exposed rats also produced telomere shortening in cultured lung epithelial cells. There were unaltered levels of oxidatively damaged DNA in the liver and lung and no changes in the DNA repair activity of oxidatively damaged DNA in the lung. Altogether, these results indicate that intragastric exposure to E153 and E171 is associated with reduced tight junction protein expression in the intestinal barrier and telomere length shortening in the lung in rats.


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