Chromosome aberrations are associated with environmental exposures in infants and children. Recently we reported that prenatal exposure to airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) was significantly (P < 0.01) associated with stable aberration frequencies in cord blood from a subset of 60 newborns from the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health Prospective Cohort Study (Bocskay K et al. [ 2005]: Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 14:506-511). To determine whether the environmental exposures may be targeting specific chromosomes and to compare various methods for measuring chromosome aberrations, we further evaluated this same subset of subjects composed of African-American and Dominican nonsmoking mother-newborn pairs residing in low-income neighborhoods of New York City, and exposed to varying levels of airborne PAHs. Chromosome aberrations were measured in cord blood lymphocytes, both by whole chromosome probe (WCP) fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and traditional Giemsa-staining. Prenatal exposures were assessed by personal air monitoring. Breaks in chromosomes 1-6, as detected by WCP FISH, were nonrandomly distributed, underscoring the importance of appropriate chromosome probe selection to capture cytogenetic damage in response to exposure. FISH for stable aberrations was found to be a more sensitive method for detecting aberration frequencies associated with environmental exposures, when compared with FISH for unstable aberrations or Giemsa-staining for aberrations. Together, these results suggest that PAHs may be targeting specific chromosomes and highlight the importance of using the more sensitive detection methods to assess risk in populations with low levels of exposure.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.