Differential colon DNA damage induced by azo food additives between rats and mice

J Toxicol Sci. 2010 Aug;35(4):547-54. doi: 10.2131/jts.35.547.


Azo dyes, amaranth, allura red and new coccine, which are currently used as food color additives in Japan, have been reported to cause colon specific DNA damage in mice. To examine species difference in the DNA damage between rats and mice, each of dyes was administered to male mice (1 and 10 mg/kg) and male rats (10, 100 and 1,000 mg/kg) by gavage. Brain, lung, liver, kidney, glandular stomach, colon, urinary bladder and bone marrow were sampled 3 hr (for mice) and 3, 6, 12 and 24 hr (for rats) after the treatment. The alkaline comet assay showed DNA damage in the mouse colon 3 hr after the administration of all of the dyes at 10 mg/kg. In rats, however, none of the dyes damaged DNA. Azo dyes should undergo metabolic reduction in the colon to be adducted to DNA. To determine transit time of the dyes to the colon after their administration, gastric emptying and intestinal transport in mice and rats were examined using brilliant blue FCF (BB) as an indicator. The half times of gastric emptying were 70 and 80 min for mice and rats, respectively; and about 60% of the BB was removed from the stomach 1 hr after the gastric intubation in both mice and rats. BB reached the mouse and rat colon 1 and 3 hr after the administration, respectively. Considering the wide dose range and sampling times well covering the transit time to the colon, rats may be insensitive to these azo dye-induced DNA damage.

MeSH terms

  • Amaranth Dye / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Azo Compounds / toxicity*
  • Colon / drug effects*
  • DNA Damage*
  • Food Coloring Agents / toxicity*
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Naphthalenesulfonates
  • Rats
  • Species Specificity
  • Stomach / drug effects


  • Azo Compounds
  • Food Coloring Agents
  • Naphthalenesulfonates
  • Allura Red AC Dye
  • Amaranth Dye
  • ponceau 4R