Journal Article

In vitro genotoxic effects of hard metal particles assessed by alkaline single cell gel and elution assays.

D Anard, M Kirsch-Volders, A Elhajouji, K Belpaeme and D Lison

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 18, issue 1, pages 177-184
Published in print January 1997 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online January 1997 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/carcin/18.1.177
In vitro genotoxic effects of hard metal particles assessed by alkaline single cell gel and elution assays.

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Hard metals (WC-Co) are made of a mixture of cobalt metal (Co, 5-10%) and tungsten carbide particles (WC, >80%). Excessive inhalation of WC-Co is associated with the occurrence of different lung diseases including an excess of lung cancers. The elective toxicity of hard metal is based on a physico-chemical interaction between cobalt metal and tungsten carbide particles to produce activated oxygen species. The aim of the present study was to assess the genotoxic activity of hard metal particles as compared with Co and WC alone. In human peripheral lymphocytes incubated with Co or WC-Co, a dose- and time-dependent increased production of DNA single strand breaks (ssb) was evidenced by alkaline single cell gel electrophoresis (SCGE) and modified alkaline elution (AE) assays. Addition of 1 M formate, a hydroxyl radical scavenger, had a protective effect against the production of ssb by both WC-Co or Co alone. On the basis of an equivalent cobalt-content, WC-Co produced significantly more ssb than Co. WC alone did not produce DNA ssb detectable by the AE assay, but results obtained with the SCGE assay may suggest that it either allows some uncoiling of the chromatin loops or induces the formation of slowly migrating fragments. Overall, this in vitro study is the first demonstration of the clastogenic property of cobalt metal-containing dusts. The results are consistent with the implication of an increased production of hydroxyl radicals when Co is mixed with WC particles. The SCGE results also suggest that WC may modify the structure of the chromatin, leading to an increased DNA sensitivity to clastogenic effects. Both mechanisms are not mutually exclusive and may concurrently contribute to the greater clastogenic activity of WC-Co dust. This property of WC-Co particles may account for the excess of lung cancers observed in hard metal workers.

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Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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