Altered gene expression in HepG2 cells exposed to a methanolic coal dust extract

Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2014 Nov;38(3):742-50. doi: 10.1016/j.etap.2014.09.003. Epub 2014 Sep 16.


Exposure to coal dust has been associated with different chronic diseases and mortality risk. This airborne pollutant is produced during coal mining and transport activities, generating environmental and human toxicity. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of a coal dust methanolic extract on HepG2, a human liver hepatocellular carcinoma cell line. Cells were exposed to 5-100ppm methanolic coal extract for 12h, using DMSO as control. MTT and comet assays were used for the evaluation of cytotoxicity and genotoxicity, respectively. Real time PCR was utilized to quantify relative expression of genes related to oxidative stress, xenobiotic metabolism and DNA damage. Coal extract concentrations did not induce significant changes in HepG2 cell viability after 12h exposure; however, 50 and 100ppm of the coal extract produced a significant increase in genetic damage index with respect to negative control. Compared to vehicle control, mRNA CYP1A1 (up to 163-fold), NQO1 (up to 4.7-fold), and GADD45B (up to 4.7-fold) were up regulated, whereas PRDX1, SOD, CAT, GPX1, XPA, ERCC1 and APEX1 remained unaltered. This expression profile suggests that cells exposed to coal dust extract shows aryl hydrocarbon receptor-mediated alterations, changes in cellular oxidative status, and genotoxic effects. These findings share some similarities with those observed in liver of mice captured near coal mining areas, and add evidence that living around these industrial operations may be negatively impacting the biota and human health.

Keywords: CYP1A1; Comet assay; GAPDD45B; Genotoxicity; NQO1; Transcriptional changes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / pharmacology*
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Coal / toxicity*
  • Coal Mining
  • DNA Damage
  • Dust
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects*
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Methanol / pharmacology*
  • Methanol / toxicity
  • Mice
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / genetics


  • Air Pollutants
  • Coal
  • Dust
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • Methanol