Monitoring occupational exposure to carcinogens: detection by 32P-postlabelling of aromatic DNA adducts in white blood cells from iron foundry workers

Mutat Res. 1988 Mar;204(3):531-41. doi: 10.1016/0165-1218(88)90047-x.


Blood samples were volunteered by workers in a Finnish iron foundry who were occupationally exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and from control subjects not known to be occupationally exposed to this class of chemical carcinogens. DNA was isolated from peripheral white blood cells and digested with micrococcal nuclease, spleen phosphodiesterase and nuclease P1. The DNA digest was then incubated with [gamma-32P]ATP and polynucleotide kinase. Aromatic adducts present in the digest that were resistant to nuclease P1 were thus 32P-labelled while unmodified nucleotides were not. The 32P-labelled adducts were resolved by t.l.c. and detected by autoradiography. Foundry workers were classified as belonging to high, medium or low exposure groups according to their exposure to airborne benzo[a]pyrene (high greater than 0.2, medium 0.05-0.2, low less than 0.05 microgram BP/m3 air). Aromatic adducts were found to be present in DNA from 3/4 samples from the high exposure group, 8/10 samples from the medium exposure group. 4/18 samples from the low exposure group and 1/9 samples from the unexposed controls. The levels of adducts found in the high and medium group samples ranged up to 1 adduct in 10(7) nucleotides but the levels formed in the low exposure group samples were not significantly different from those in unexposed controls. No differences related to the smoking habits of the subjects were observed. Most of the DNA adducts detected had chromatographic mobilities distinct from those formed when the 7,8-diol 9,10-oxide of BP reacted with DNA. The results indicate that highly-exposed individuals are more likely to contain aromatic DNA adducts in their white blood cells, but large interindividual variations were evident. In addition, multiple samples from the same subjects indicate that qualitative and quantitative changes in adduct patterns occur with time. This pilot study suggests that 32P-postlabelling may be useful in monitoring human exposure to known and to previously unidentified environmental genotoxic agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinogens*
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer
  • DNA Damage*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Industry
  • Iron
  • Leukocytes / analysis
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Polycyclic Compounds*


  • Carcinogens
  • Polycyclic Compounds
  • Iron