Sister chromatid exchanges and micronuclei in peripheral lymphocytes of shoe factory workers exposed to solvents

Marià Pitarque, Alexander Vaglenov, Maria Nosko, Sonya Pavlova, Vera Petkova, Ari Hirvonen, Amadeu Creus, Hannu Norppa, Ricard Marcos

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We examined sister chromatid exchanges (SCEs) and micronuclei (MN; cytokinesis-block method) in cultured peripheral lymphocytes from 52 female workers of two shoe factories and from 36 unexposed age- and sex-matched referents. The factory workers showed an elevated level of urinary hippuric acid, a biomarker of toluene exposure, and workplace air contained high concentrations of various organic solvents such as toluene, gasoline, acetone, and (in one of the plants only) ethylacetate and methylenediphenyl diisocyanate. The shoe factory workers showed a statistically significant higher frequency of micronucleated binucleate lymphocytes in comparison with the referents. This finding agreed with three preliminary MN determinations (each comprising 27-32 shoe workers and 16-20 controls) performed in one of the plants 2-5 years earlier. The shoe factory workers also had a lower average level of blood hemoglobin than the referents. In contrast, no difference was found between the groups in SCE analysis. Smokers showed significantly higher mean frequencies of SCEs per cell and high frequency cells (HFC) than nonsmokers. Aging was associated with increased MN rates and reduced cell proliferation. Polymorphism of the glutathione S-transferase M1 gene (GSTM1) did not affect the individual level of SCEs; but in smoking shoe workers and effect of the occupational exposure on the frequency of micronucleated cells could be seen only in GSTM1 null subjects. The low prevalence of the glutathione S-transferase T1 (GSTT1) null genotype precluded the evaluation of the influence of GSTT1 polymorphism. Our results show that the shoe factory workers have experienced genotoxic exposure, which is manifest as an increase in the frequency of MN, but not of SCEs, in peripheral lymphocytes. The exposures responsible for the MN induction could not be identified with certainty, but exposure to benzene in gasoline and methylenediphenyl diisocyanate may explain some of the findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-404
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002


  • Glutathione S-transferase M1
  • Glutathione S-transferase T1
  • Micronuclei assays
  • Shoe factory workers
  • Sister chromatid exchage assays
  • Solvent exposure


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