Genotoxicity testing of extracts of a Swedish moist oral snuff

Mutat Res. 1991 Oct;261(2):101-15. doi: 10.1016/0165-1218(91)90056-r.


The present study was designed to investigate the potential genotoxicity of aqueous and methylene chloride extracts of Swedish moist oral snuff. The test systems were selected to provide optimal data for the prediction of carcinogenicity in rodents and included assays for the induction of mutation in bacteria, sister-chromatid exchanges (SCE) in human lymphocytes, of chromosome aberrations and gene mutations in V79 Chinese hamster cells and of micronuclei in mouse bone marrow cells. In addition, the methylene chloride extract was tested for the induction of sex-linked recessive lethal mutations in Drosophila melanogaster. The aqueous extract of 'Snus' induced SCE in human lymphocytes and chromosome aberrations in V79 cells, the latter effect being observed both with and without metabolic activation. No induction of point mutations was detected with the Ames test or in V79 cells and the micronucleus test in mice was negative. It was demonstrated that the induction of chromosome aberrations without metabolic activation may be due to a high salt concentration, indicating that the clastogenic agent(s) in this extract required metabolic activation. The methylene chloride extract showed genotoxicity in the Ames test, the SCE test and the chromosome aberration test, whereas no induction of gene mutations in V79 cells was observed. Once again, the results suggested that metabolism is required for genotoxicity. The methylene chloride extract did not cause induction of micronuclei in mice or of sex-linked recessive lethal mutations in Drosophila melanogaster. These combined data on genotoxicity were analyzed using various models for the prediction of carcinogenicity. In a sequential testing model, the probabilities that the aqueous and methylene chloride extracts of 'Snus' are carcinogenic due to a genotoxic mechanism were both predicted to be low. Using carcinogenicity prediction by battery selection (CPBS), the probabilities of the methylene chloride and aqueous extracts being correctly identified as non-carcinogens are 71 and 77%, respectively. Up to date, the CPBS approach has been validated primarily for individual compounds, so some caution should at present be exercised in interpreting the results using this method. Based on these results, the carcinogenic potential of Swedish 'Snus' should be considered to be low, a conclusion in agreement with the low incidence of oral cancer in Sweden compared to other countries.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotransformation
  • Chromosome Aberrations
  • Cricetinae
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylene Chloride / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Micronuclei, Chromosome-Defective / drug effects
  • Micronucleus Tests
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Mutagens*
  • Plants, Toxic*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Salmonella typhimurium / genetics
  • Sister Chromatid Exchange / drug effects
  • Time Factors
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / toxicity*


  • Mutagens
  • Methylene Chloride