Chromium(VI) exposure enhances polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-DNA binding at the p53 gene in human lung cells.


Chromium(VI) [Cr(VI)] is a ubiquitous environmental and industrial contaminant. Cr(VI) exposure is strongly associated with a higher incidence of human lung cancer, but the mechanism of Cr(VI) carcinogenicity remains unclear. Cigarette smoking has been known as the prominent cause of lung cancer, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the major carcinogens in cigarette smoke, have been suggested as being responsible for the initiation and development of lung cancer. It has been reported that lung cancer from workers exposed to Cr(VI) has a high percentage of G to T transversion mutations in the non-transcribed strand of the p53 gene, a hallmark of PAH-induced mutation. Cr(VI) is a weak mutagen although it can induce a high percentage of G to T transversion mutations. These results raise the possibility that Cr(VI) may enhance PAH binding at the p53 gene in lung tissue. To test this possibility, we have determined the effect of Cr(VI) exposure on benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxides (BPDE)-DNA binding at total genomic DNA level and at the p53 gene in normal human lung fibroblast cells. We found that in lung cells Cr(VI) pre-exposure does not affect the BPDE-DNA binding at the total genomic DNA level or at exons 5, 6 and 9 of the p53 gene; however, it greatly enhances BPDE-DNA binding at exons 7 and 8 of the p53 gene, especially at mutational hotspots of lung cancer: codons 248, 273 and 282 of the p53 gene. No enhancement of BPDE-DNA binding in the p53 was observed when naked genomic DNA isolated from Cr(VI)-exposed cells was modified with BPDE in vitro. These results suggest that Cr(VI) exposure may enhance chromatin structure-dependent carcinogen-DNA binding. This effect may contribute to the synergism of Cr(VI) and BPDE on mutagenesis and cell transformation, and may also contribute to the higher incidence of lung cancer in Cr(VI)-exposed populations.

  • Costa M
  • Feng Z
  • Hu W
  • Rom WN
  • Tang MS
PubMed ID
Appears In
Carcinogenesis, 2003, 24 (4)