Fluorescence in Situ Hybridization Is Necessary to Detect an Association Between Chromosome Aberrations and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Exposure in Utero and Reveals Nonrandom Chromosome Involvement

Environ Mol Mutagen. 2007 Mar;48(2):114-23. doi: 10.1002/em.20276.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Chromosome Aberrations / chemically induced*
  • Chromosome Aberrations / statistics & numerical data
  • Cytogenetic Analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / toxicity*
  • Uterus / drug effects*
  • Uterus / pathology


  • Air Pollutants
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons