Atrazine and nitrogenous fertilizers are agrochemical contaminants frequently detected in water systems in North America. Several studies reported their ability to affect amphibian and mammalian development. Retinoids, supplied in the diet or synthesized by cells, are essential to embryogenesis. Disturbance of their homeostasis may lead to teratogenic effects. Retinoic acid (RA) is a major retinoid regulator of cell proliferation and differentiation. Previous studies reported alterations of retinoid stores in bullfrogs of Yamaska River subwatersheds (Québec, Canada), a region of intensive agricultural activities associated with atrazine, nitrate, and nitrite contaminants. These contaminants could affect RA metabolism and RA-mediated processes. Mouse P19 embryonic stem cells, which can differentiate to neurons in response to RA, were used to test this hypothesis. Cells were cultured in the absence or presence of contaminants during neuroinduction with RA and assayed by flow cytometry for expression of stage-specific embryonic antigen-1 (SSEA1) (embryonic marker) and βIII-tubulin (neuronal marker). Cell cultures were also analyzed for RA metabolism by high performance liquid chromotagraphy (HPLC). Downregulation of SSEA1 paralleled βIII-tubulin upregulation in an RA concentration–dependent manner. Atrazine, nitrate, and nitrite did not affect differentiation at environmentally encountered micromolar concentrations. However, low molar nitrite prevented RA-induced SSEA1 downregulation and decreased βIII-tubulin appearance. Decreased cell viability/proliferation accompanied these differentiation effects. P19 cells metabolized RA to polar retinoids. RA metabolism was not affected at any concentration of atrazine, nitrate, or nitrite. Environmentally relevant levels of these contaminants, thus, had no gross effect on neurodifferentiation and RA catabolism of embryonic stem cells. P19 cell–based bioassays may provide valuable tools in monitoring developmental toxicity.
Keywords: agrochemical contaminants; retinoids; bioassay; flow cytometry; HPLC
Journal Article. 7148 words. Illustrated.
Subjects: Medical Toxicology ; Toxicology (Non-medical)
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