Effects of chronic exposure to coal in wild rodents (Ctenomys torquatus) evaluated by multiple methods and tissues

Mutat Res. 2000 Oct 10;470(1):39-51. doi: 10.1016/s1383-5718(00)00094-2.


Rio Grande do Sul (RS) coal is low quality and typically obtained by strip mining. In a recent study concerning 2 years of biomonitoring in coal regions, we demonstrated the genotoxicity of coal and related products on blood cells of native rodents, from RS, Brazil. With the goal of studying the variations in the effects of RS coal on different tissues of the same rodent, we utilized, besides the single cell gel (SCG) and micronucleus (MN) assay on blood, histological analyses and SCG assay of bone marrow, spleen, kidney, liver and lung cells, and MN assay of bone marrow and spleen cells. In addition, to identify agents that can potentially influence the results, concentrations of several heavy metals were analyzed in livers and in soil, and the total concentration of hydrocarbons in the soil was determined. Rodents exposed to coal were captured at two different sites, Butiá and Candiota, in RS. Reference animals were obtained from Pelotas, where there is no coal mining. This report provides chemical and biological data from coal regions, indicating the possible association between Zn, Ni, Pb and hydrocarbons in the induction of DNA damage (e.g. single strand-breaks and alkali-labile sites) determined by the alkaline SCG assay in cells from Ctenomys torquatus. The results of the present SCG study indicate that coal and by-products not only induce DNA damage in blood cells, but also in other tissue cells, mainly liver, kidney and lung. Neither the MN assay nor histopathological observations showed significant differences; these analyses may be useful under circumstances where genotoxicity is higher. In conclusion we believe that the in vivo genotoxicity of coal can be biomonitored by the SCG assay, and our studies suggest that wild rodents, such as C. torquatus are useful for monitoring genotoxic damage by both methods, the SCG assay and the MN test.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Coal / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Micronucleus Tests
  • Mining
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Mutagens / toxicity*
  • Rodentia*


  • Coal
  • Mutagens