Low molecular weight polyethylene glycol induces chromosome aberrations in Chinese hamster cells cultured in vitro

Mutagenesis. 2002 May;17(3):261-4. doi: 10.1093/mutage/17.3.261.


The human population is widely exposed to polyethylene glycol (PEG) and its chemical derivatives, which are widely used as vehicles or co-solvents in many pharmaceutical and cosmetic preparations. However, PEG polymers of low molecular weight differ significantly from polymers of higher molecular weight in their physico-chemical properties, biological effects on cell permeability and their absorption and excretion, as well as their higher toxicity and possibly genotoxicity. In the present study we have analysed the induction of chromosome aberrations by the low molecular weight PEG polymers tetraethylene glycol (TEG), PEG 200 and PEG 400 in a Chinese hamster epithelial liver (CHEL) cell line, which retains sufficient metabolic capability to activate different promutagens and procarcinogens. The results indicate that in CHEL cells only TEG and PEG 200 are clastogenic. Parallel experiments performed in CHO cells in the presence and absence of rat liver S9 mix showed significant increases in chromosomal aberrations only in cultures treated with TEG in the presence of rat liver S9, indicating that low molecular weight polymers need to be activated to exert their genotoxic activity.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Chromosome Aberrations*
  • Chromosomes / drug effects*
  • Cricetinae
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Mutagens
  • Polyethylene Glycols*
  • Polymers
  • Rats


  • Mutagens
  • Polymers
  • Polyethylene Glycols