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Asbestos

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Elke Dopp
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Exposure of human amniotic fluid (AFC) cells to horizontally applied magnetic fields (hMF) of 50 Hz and 1 mT generated in a Helmholtz-coil system leads to a significant increase in micronucleus frequency (MN), without affecting cell proliferation. To investigate whether hMF-exposure has an additive or synergistic effect on the genotoxic capacity of asbestos fibers, MN induction was investigated in hMF pre-exposed cells, treated before or after with asbestos (1 microg/cm2). Neither synergistic nor additive effects on MN induction were observed. The results indicate, that under our experimental conditions, exposure to hMF and treatment with asbestos fibers possess genotoxic capability, but no interactive effects, in AFC cells.
Asbestos and other mineral fibers have long been known as carcinogenic agents. However, the primary mechanisms of fiber-induced carcinogenesis still remain unclear. We have investigated mitotic disturbances caused by amosite, crocidolite and chrysotile in Syrian hamster embryo (SHE) fibroblasts. We have analyzed micronucleus formation as a result of mitotic disturbances and we have carried out a characterization of the induced micronucleus population by kinetochore staining. In addition, the spindle fiber morphology was examined. Supravital UV-microscopy was used to analyze changes in chromatin structure, impaired chromatid separation and blocked cytokinesis. All three fiber types induced micronuclei in SHE cells with a high frequency (up to 200/ 2000 cells; dose range: 0.1-5.0 μg/cm2) in a dose-dependent manner with a maximum between 48 and 66 hours. At higher concentrations (> 5.0 μg/cm2) the micronucleus formation decreased as a result of cytotoxicity. Kinetochore staining (CREST-antiserum) revealed that 48% of fiber-induced micronuclei reacted positively. Furthermore, spindle deformation was observed in cells with disturbed metaphases and anaphases while the spindle fiber morphology appeared unchanged. Our results show that asbestos fibers may cause both loss as well as breakage of chromosomes in the absence of direct interaction with spindle fibers. In addition, we analyzed the induction of micronuclei, hyperdiploidy and chromosome breakage in human amniotic cells in vitro by amosite, chrysotile and crocidolite asbestos and ceramic fibers. The response of human (amniotic fluid cells) and rodent (SHE) cells to fiber treatment was compared using the micronucleus assay. Human amniotic cells were much less susceptible than SHE cells to the induction of micronuclei by mineral fibers. This again demonstrates that SHE cells are more susceptible to chromosomal changes than human amniotic fluid cells. The application of fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) with tandem DNA probes yielded more detailed information about specific structural chromosome aberrations in the 1(cen-q12) and 9(cen-q12) regions and about abnormal numbers of chromosomes in interphase human amniotic fluid cells. Using this FISH approach we found a statistically significant increase of chromosomal breakage in the pericentric heterochromatin regions of chromosomes 1 and 9 interphase human amniotic cells after exposure to asbestos and ceramic fibers compared to control cells. The number of hyperdiploid cells was also significantly increased. These results show that asbestos fibers as well as ceramic fibers are inducers of structural and numerical chromosomal aberrations in human amniotic fluid cells.
Nineteen specimens from primary human malignant mesotheliomas obtained from 19 patients were screened for activating point mutations in the oncogenes N-ras and CDK4 by combined RFLP-PCR/SSCP analysis. In addition, all tumours were screened for deletions and point mutations in the tumour suppressor genes p53, p16INK4a (CDKN2A) and p14ARF (exon-1beta) by combined multiplex-PCR/SSCP analysis. No mutations were found in N-ras, p53 and CDK4. Three tumours displayed homozygous deletion (co-deletion of exons 1, 2 and 3) of p16INK4a. One of them displayed additional homozygous deletion of p14ARF (exon-1beta). Two silent point mutations and 2 polymorphisms were found in p16INK4a in 3 tumours. Our preliminary data indicate that disarrangement of the Rb1 pathway may be involved in mesothelioma formation.