Effects of asbestos fibers on cell division, cell survival, and formation of thioguanine-resistant mutants in Chinese hamster ovary cells

Environ Res. 1986 Apr;39(2):448-64. doi: 10.1016/s0013-9351(86)80069-x.


The ability of crocidolite fibers to induce point mutations and mitotic abnormalities in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells was examined in cell cultures. The purpose has been to study the possibilities for establishing in vitro test methods to quantify genetic damage induced by asbestos and other mineral fibers. Results obtained with the CHO/hypoxanthine guanine phosphoribosyl transferase system indicated that crocidolite fibers per se do not significantly increase the number of thioguanine-resistant mutants. Crocidolite fibers also failed to potentiate the mutagenicity of benzo[a]pyrene. Time-lapse cinematography and microscopy showed that asbestos (crocidolite) fibers were markedly cytotoxic. Among surviving cells some underwent abnormal cell divisions which resulted in multi- and micronucleate cells. Many cells that contained a few asbestos fibers, however, underwent mitosis and successfully formed two mononucleate daughter cells capable of further divisions. Individual, fiber-containing cells were examined by time-lapse television recordings for 4-5 days. During this time period some cells underwent six divisions and generated an almost normal number of daughter cells. Cells which contained fibers that were longer or equivalent to the diameter of the mitotic cell (20 microns), showed different forms of mitotic abnormalities. The frequency of multinucleate cells was drastically increased following exposure to asbestos fibers. Only rarely, however, did these cells divide to produce viable daughter cells capable of continued cell multiplication. The frequency of multinucleate cells was dependent on the dose of exposure to asbestos fibers and could possibly be used as an index of the degree of mitotic disturbances induced by mineral fibers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asbestos / toxicity*
  • Asbestos, Crocidolite
  • Benzo(a)pyrene / toxicity
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Drug Resistance
  • Drug Synergism
  • Female
  • Hypoxanthine Phosphoribosyltransferase / genetics
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Mutation
  • Ovary / cytology*
  • Ovary / drug effects
  • Ovary / enzymology
  • Thioguanine / pharmacology*
  • Time Factors


  • Asbestos, Crocidolite
  • Asbestos
  • Benzo(a)pyrene
  • Hypoxanthine Phosphoribosyltransferase
  • Thioguanine