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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 1997 Oct;146(2):270-80.

Induction of apoptotic cell death by particulate lead chromate: differential effects of vitamins C and E on genotoxicity and survival.

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Genetics, The George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20037, USA.


Certain hexavalent chromium compounds are documented human carcinogens. Exposure of cells to particulate forms of chromium results in cell-enhanced dissolution of particles in the extracellular microenvironment and chronic production of chromium oxyanions, which are taken up by the cell through an anion transport system and are genotoxic and clastogenic. It was previously shown that apoptosis is the mode of cell death of nearly all of the Chinese hamster ovary cells (CHO-AA8 cell line), which die after high-dose, short-term treatments with soluble sodium chromate. In this report the mode of cell killing by particulate lead chromate and of low-dose continuous treaments of soluble sodium chromate designed to mimic conditions of ionic chromate uptake after lead chromate exposure was examined. CHO-AA8 cells were treated for 24 hr with doses of sodium chromate or lead chromate which cause a 50% decrease in survival in colony-forming effeciency assays. Longer treatments (up to 72 hr) at the same doses did not decrease survival further than the 24-hr exposure. Morphological changes indicative of apoptosis, as well as internucleosomal DNA fragmentation, were detectable by 24 hr after treatment with lead chromate or soluble sodium chromate. All of the cells killed by treatments with lead chromate particles underwent apoptosis as the mode of cell death and this was accurately modeled in cell culture by continuous treatments with low-dose soluble sodium chromate. Exposure of cells to hexavalent chromium compounds causes a spectrum of DNA damage which can be selectively altered by pretreatment of cells with antioxidant vitamins prior to chromium exposure. Here we show that ascorbate and alpha-tocopherol markedly inhibited the chromosomal aberrations induced by both particulate and soluble chromate compounds, even though chromium adduct levels were not decreased by either vitamin pretreatment. Cell survival assays showed that ascorbate, but not alpha-tocopherol, protected cells from apoptosis induced by sodium chromate. The results differentiate chromium-induced apoptosis from both chromosomal damage and adduct levels and suggest that other lesions sensitive to ascorbate but not tocopherol are the proximal inducing signal for chromium-induced apoptosis.

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