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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Feb 21;109(8):2984-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1119396109. Epub 2012 Jan 30.

Exposure to anticancer drugs can result in transgenerational genomic instability in mice.

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Department of Genetics, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, United Kingdom.


The genetic effects of human exposure to anticancer drugs remain poorly understood. To establish whether exposure to anticancer drugs can result not only in mutation induction in the germ line of treated animals, but also in altered mutation rates in their offspring, we evaluated mutation rates in the offspring of male mice treated with three commonly used chemotherapeutic agents: cyclophosphamide, mitomycin C, and procarbazine. The doses of paternal exposure were approximately equivalent to those used clinically. Using single-molecule PCR, the frequency of mutation at the mouse expanded simple tandem repeat locus Ms6-hm was established in DNA samples extracted from sperm and bone marrow of the offspring of treated males. After paternal exposure to any one of these three drugs, expanded simple tandem repeat mutation frequencies were significantly elevated in the germ line (sperm) and bone marrow of their offspring. This observed transgenerational instability was attributed to elevated mutation rates at the alleles derived from both the exposed fathers and from the nonexposed mothers, thus implying a genome-wide destabilization. Our results suggest that paternal exposure to a wide variety of mutagens can result in transgenerational instability manifesting in their offspring. Our data also raise important issues concerning delayed transgenerational effects in the children of survivors of anticancer therapy.

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