The cytokinesis-block micronucleus (MN) assay in peripheral lymphocytes was used to assess the genetic effects of the occupational exposure to traffic fumes in policemen from the Municipality of Rome. The study population consisted of 192 subjects engaged in traffic control (exposed, 134 subjects), or in office work (controls, 58 subjects). Groups were balanced for age, gender, and smoking habits. The average benzene exposure during the workshift was 9.5 and 3.8 microg/m(3) in exposed individuals and controls, respectively. All subjects were genotyped for CYP1A1, CYP2E1, GSTM1, GSTT1, and DT-diaphorase polymorphisms. The incidence of micronuclei and micronucleated cells was recorded in 1,000 binucleated cells harvested 66 hr after mitogen stimulation. Regression analysis of data showed that MN frequency was mainly modulated by the age (P = 0.001) and gender (P = 0.001) of the study subjects (relatively higher in the elderly and females), whereas it was unaffected by the occupational exposure to traffic fumes and smoking habits. A weak (P = 0.02) association between lower MN frequency and the GSTM1 null genotype was also observed. In order to improve the sensitivity of the method to excision-repairable lesions, a modified protocol, with exposure of cells to the repair inhibitor cytosine arabinoside (Ara-C) during the first 16 hr of growth, was applied to 78 subjects (46 exposed and 32 controls). The results confirmed the higher MN frequency in females (P < 0.05), but failed to demonstrate any significant effect of chemical exposure (occupational or related to smoking habits). When the frequency of MN induced by Ara-C (i.e., spontaneous values subtracted) was considered, a significant inverse correlation with age was observed (P = 0.005), possibly related to the age-dependent decrease in repair proficiency.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.