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Carcinogenesis. 1993 May;14(5):811-7.

Inhalation exposure to a hepatocarcinogenic concentration of methylene chloride does not induce sustained replicative DNA synthesis in hepatocytes of female B6C3F1 mice.

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  • 1National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709.


We have used methylene chloride as a model to study cellular and molecular processes responsible for liver tumor induction by chlorinated hydrocarbons. Because of current interest in the role of enhanced cell proliferation in tumor induction, measurement of S-phase hepatocytes was incorporated into recently conducted toxicity and carcinogenicity studies. In prechronic studies, female B6C3F1 mice were exposed to 0, 1000, 2000 or 8000 p.p.m. methylene chloride by inhalation, 5 days per week, for up to 4 weeks followed by a 1 and 2 week recovery period. Mice exposed to concentrations of 2000, 4000 or 8000 p.p.m. methylene chloride had sustained increased liver weight commencing after 1 week of exposure and returning to normal after the 1 or 2 week recovery period. The increased liver weight was attributed to hepatocellular hypertrophy secondary to intracellular glycogen accumulation. Tritiated thymidine was administered by osmotic minipumps to label S-phase hepatocytes over a 6 day period. At most intervals examined there was decreased hepatocyte labeling in mice exposed to methylene chloride. However, there was a transitory increased number of S-phase hepatocytes observed at the 2 week interval in the 1000, 4000 and 8000 p.p.m. methylene chloride groups. In a chronic study, female mice were exposed to 2000 p.p.m. methylene chloride for up to two years. Following labeling with BRDU using 6 day minipumps, a statistically significant decrease in S-phase hepatocytes was observed after 13 weeks of methylene chloride exposure. A minor increased labeling index (LI) observed at 52 weeks was not considered to be a methylene chloride treatment-related effect. Retrospective immunohistochemical staining for proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) in liver sections containing foci of cellular alteration allowed demonstration of S-phase hepatocytes in these clonally expanded preneoplastic lesions. While foci frequently had higher LI's than surrounding normal hepatocytes, there was no difference in the mean LI of foci from methylene chloride-treated mice versus foci occurring spontaneously in control mice. The absence of a sustained increase in S-phase hepatocytes in female B6C3F1 mice suggests that enhanced cell proliferation is not a major mechanistic factor associated with the observed hepatocarcinogenicity of methylene chloride.

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