Significance of formaldehyde-induced DNA-protein crosslinks for mutagenesis

Environ Mol Mutagen. 1998;32(3):260-8. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1098-2280(1998)32:3<260::aid-em9>;2-m.


Formaldehyde (FA) is a genotoxic substance, induces tumors in the nasal epithelium of rats, and is suspected to be a human carcinogen. As a primary DNA lesion, FA induces DNA-protein crosslinks (DPC) and the formation of DPC has been used as a measure of exposure for risk estimation. However, the significance of DPC for mutagenesis and carcinogenesis is at present poorly understood. We therefore performed comparative investigations on the induction of DPC and other genetic endpoints by FA in V79 Chinese hamster cells. The amount of DPC was comparatively determined with the K-SDS assay and the comet assay. Both tests gave similar results but the comet assay was much foster and easier to perform. Our results show that FA significantly induces DPC, sister-chromatid exchanges, and micronuclei in the same range of concentrations, parallel to the induction of cytotoxicity (relative cloning efficiency). In contrast, treatment of V79 cells with FA did not induce gene mutations in the HPRT test even after variations of the treatment protocol. Our results indicate that FA-induced DPC seem to be related to cytotoxicity and clastogenicity but do not lead to the formation of gene mutations in mammalian cells. It is suggested that FA-induced DPC do not cause gene mutations that are involved in FA-induced carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Chromosome Aberrations*
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Cross-Linking Reagents*
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Formaldehyde / metabolism
  • Formaldehyde / toxicity*
  • Hypoxanthine Phosphoribosyltransferase / genetics
  • Micronuclei, Chromosome-Defective
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Sister Chromatid Exchange
  • Time Factors


  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Proteins
  • Formaldehyde
  • DNA
  • Hypoxanthine Phosphoribosyltransferase