The fungal toxin, Ochratoxin A (OTA), is a common contaminant in human food and animal feed. The present study evaluated micronucleus (MN) induction by OTA in comparison with its ability to induce cytotoxicity and DNA damage in two mammalian cell lines, CHO-K1-BH(4) Chinese hamster ovary cells and TK6 human lymphoblastoid cells. Micronuclei were evaluated by flow cytometry, cytotoxicity was estimated by relative population doubling (RPD), while direct DNA damage and oxidative DNA damage were measured with the Comet assay, performed without and with digestion by formamidopyrimidine-DNA glycosylase (fpg). For the MN and cytotoxicity measurements, the cell lines were treated for 24h (CHO cells) or 27h (TK6 cells) with 5-25muM OTA in the absence of exogenous metabolic activation. The OTA treatments resulted in concentration-responsive increases in cytotoxicity, with higher concentrations of the agent being more cytotoxic in CHO cells than TK6 cells. 15muM OTA produced positive responses for MN induction and hypodiploid events (a measure of aneugenicity) in both cell lines; this concentration of OTA also produced cytotoxicity near to the recommended limit for the assay (45+/-5% RPD). A time course assay with TK6 cells indicated that at least 4h of OTA treatment were required to produce a positive MN response. For the Comet assay DNA damage assessments, the cell lines were treated with 5-50muM OTA for 4h. Direct DNA damage was detected in TK6 cells, but not CHO cells, while concentration-related increases in fpg-sensitive sites were detected for both cell lines. The consistent association of oxidative DNA damage with OTA exposure suggests its involvement in producing OTA-induced clastogenicity and aneugenicity; however, based on its detection in TK6 cells direct DNA damage could be involved in any human risk posed by OTA exposure.
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