Effects of the Tobacco Carcinogens N'-Nitrosonornicotine and Dibenzo[ a, l]pyrene Individually and in Combination on DNA Damage in Human Oral Leukoplakia and on Mutagenicity and Mutation Profiles in lacI Mouse Tongue

Chem Res Toxicol. 2019 Sep 16;32(9):1893-1899. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrestox.9b00257. Epub 2019 Sep 3.


In previous studies, we showed that the topical application of dibenzo[a,l]pyrene (DB[a,l]P), also known as dibenzo[def,p]chrysene, to the oral cavity of mice induced oral squamous cell carcinoma. We also showed that dA and dG adducts likely account for most of the mutagenic activity of DB[a,l]P in the oral tissues in vivo. Here we report for the first time that the oral treatment of lacI mice with a combination of tobacco smoke carcinogens, DB[a,l]P and N'-nitrosonornicotine (NNN), induces a higher fraction of mutations than expected from a simple sum of their induced individual mutation fractions, and a change in the mutational profile compared with that expected from the sum of the individual agents. The mutational profile of the combination of agents resembled that of the P53 gene in human head and neck cancers more than that of either of the individual agents, in that the percentage of the major class of mutations (GC > AT transitions) is similar to that seen in the P53 gene. A preliminary study was performed to understand the origin of the unexpected mutagenesis observations by measuring specific DNA adducts produced by both NNN and DB[a,l]P in human oral leukoplakia cells. No significant differences in the expected and observed major adduct levels from either agent were observed between individual or combined treatments, suggesting that additional adducts are important in mutagenesis induced by the mixture. Taken together, the above observations support the use of this animal model not only to investigate tobacco smoke-induced oral cancer but also to study chemoprevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzopyrenes / toxicity*
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA / drug effects
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Adducts / metabolism
  • DNA Damage / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukoplakia, Oral / genetics*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mutagenesis / drug effects
  • Mutation
  • Nitrosamines / toxicity*
  • Tongue / drug effects
  • Tongue Neoplasms / genetics*


  • Benzopyrenes
  • Carcinogens
  • DNA Adducts
  • Nitrosamines
  • DNA
  • dibenzo(a,l)pyrene
  • N'-nitrosonornicotine