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Comparative Evaluation Of The In Vitro Micronucleus Test And The Alkaline Single Cell Gel Electrophoresis Assay For The Detection Of DNA Damaging Agents: Genotoxic Effects Of Cobalt Powder, Tungsten Carbide And Cobalt-tungsten Carbide.

F. Van Goethem, D. Lison, M. Kirsch-Volders
Published 1997 · Biology, Medicine

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Although it is well known that micronuclei may arise from either DNA breakage leading to acentric chromosome fragments or from chromosome/chromatid lagging in anaphase, the ratio between the amount of DNA breakage induced and the frequency of micronuclei expressed in the following interphase is unclear. With the development of the alkaline single cell gel electrophoresis assay, which measures single strand and/or double strand breaks in a cell by cell approach, it is new possible to address this question at the cellular level. We therefore compared the genotoxic potential of pure cobalt powder (Co) and a cobalt-containing alloy, cobalt-tungsten carbide (WC-Co), involved in specific lung disorders, in parallel with the alkaline single cell gel electrophoresis (SCGE) assay (comet assay) and the cytokinesis-blocked micronucleus (MN) test, both carried out in vitro on isolated human leukocytes. The comet assay indicated that the WC-Co mixture produced a higher level of DNA damage than Co alone; WC alone was not able to induce a dose-dependent DNA breakage effect as was seen for Co and WC-Co. Results from the MN test confirmed these observations. It was clear that the clastogenic property of Co-containing dust is significantly enhanced when the Co metal is mixed with WC and suggested that their physicochemical characteristics may act as one of the important parameters responsible for the increased incidence of lung cancers observed in the population of hard metal workers. In agreement with data obtained in the same laboratory on liposoluble chemicals (PCBs and chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons) and from the literature, the results indicate that both the comet assay and the micronucleus test were able to detect differences in the genotoxic potential of the compounds studied. Although the micronucleus test seemed to be less sensitive to assess a synergistic DNA damaging potential of the mixture involved, it detects chromosomal aberrations (chromosome/genome mutations) and not just repairable DNA breakage or alkali-labile sites. Combination of the comet assay and the in vitro MN test might therefore be recommended for genotoxins to understand the mechanisms underlying mutagenicity and to assess the lowest efficient dose.
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