Genotoxic Substances

From WikiLectures

Genotoxic Agents[edit edit | edit source]

A genotoxic agent is a chemical or another agent that damages cellular DNA, resulting in mutations or cancer. Toxic to the genome! Genotoxic substances are known to be potentially mutagenic or carcinogenic when inhaled, ingested or penetrate the skin. A mutagen is an agent that is responsible for inducing a change to the genetic material of an organism. That agent might be physical, chemical or biological. As many mutations may ultimately result in cancer (or be part of the multistep process of carcinogenesis), mutagens are typically also carcinogens.

Genotoxicity "Facts"[edit edit | edit source]

  • Not all carcinogens are of genotoxic nature
  • Genotoxic carcinogens are mutagens
  • Epigenetic carcinogens do not damage DNA, but cause damage to DNA repair enzymes rendering the genome unstable (genomic instability). In such a case the last chance to save cells are NK cells

The Ames Test[edit edit | edit source]

This is a very rapid test for mutagens. It utilizes bacteria of the species Salmonella Typhimurium that have a mutation in the histidine operon and cannot synthesize histidine.

Compounds are tested to determine whether they can induce reversion of this mutation. The test can be carried out very simply by plating out His- (negative) mutants on an agar plate that contains only a trace of histidine. A crystal, or a filter disc containing a solution of the compound to be tested, is placed on the surface of the agar. The bacteria grow only for a short time until histidine is depleted. After that point the only bacteria that are capable of continued growth colony formation are those, which have undergone reversion and are capable of synthesizing their own histidine, histidine prototrophs (His+).

If the test compound is not mutagenic a few revertant colonies will be found randomly scattered along the agar plate. If it is mutagenic then the number of colonies will be clustered around the point were the compound was placed on the plate. Note that they can be constructed in a more quantitative manner to give a dose response curve for any compound under test.

Chemical Carcinogens[edit edit | edit source]

  1. Direct Acting Agents e.g. Alkylating ans acylating agents;
  2. Indirect Acting Agents/procarcinogens e.g. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, aromatic amines, amides and azo dyes;
  3. Natural Plant and Microbial Products e.g Aflatoxin, Griseofulvin.

Direct Acting Agents[edit edit | edit source]

Alkylating Agents[edit edit | edit source]

Alkylated DNA either does not coil or uncoil properly, or cannot be processed by information-decoding enzymes. This results in cytotoxicity with the effects of inhibition the growth of the cell, initiation of programmed cell death or apoptosis. However, mutations are also triggered, including carcinogenic mutations, explaining the higher incidence of cancer after exposure. Examples include: β-propiolactone, Dimethyl sulfate, Diepoxybutane, Anticancer drugs (cyclophosphamide, chlorambucil, bleomycin, nitrosoureas and others)

Acylating Agents[edit edit | edit source]

Examples include: 1-actyl-imidazole, Dimethylcarbamyl chloride


Indirect Acting Agents/Procarcinogens[edit edit | edit source]

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons[edit edit | edit source]

Found in cigarette smoke and exhaust fumes. Examples include:

  • Benz(a)anthracene [Group 2];
  • Benz(a)pyrene (1st chemical carcinogen to be discovered) [Group 1];
  • Dibenz(a,h)anthracene [Group 2];
  • 3-methylchloanthrene;
  • 7,12-Dimethylbenz(a)anthracene.

Aromatic amines, Amides, Azo Dyes[edit edit | edit source]

Aromatic amines form covalent bonds with DNA and prevent replication. Examples include: 2-Naphthylamine (β-naphthylamine) [Group 1]


Natural Plant and Microbial Products[edit edit | edit source]

  • Aflatoxin B1 [Group 1]
  • Griseofulvin
  • Cycasin
  • Betel nuts

Note: Protection from genotoxic substances may be conferred by antioxidant vitamins e.g. through reduction after oxidization by free radicals (vitamin A, C and E)

Effects on health: Somatic Mutation → cancer Developemental defects → during pregnancy → teratogenesis Germline mutation (e.g. genitals exposed to radiation – stochastic effects with long latency) → hereditary disorder


Links[edit edit | edit source]

Bibliography[edit edit | edit source]

  • BENCKO CHARLES UNIVERSITY, PRAGUE 2004, 270 P, V, et al. Hygiene and epidemiology. Selected Chapters. 2nd edition. Prague. 2008. ISBN 9788024607931.