Part 3. Assessment of genotoxicity and oxidative damage in rats after chronic exposure to new-technology diesel exhaust in the ACES bioassay

HEI Health Review Committee

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In 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA*) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted new standards for diesel fuel and emissions from heavy-duty diesel engines. By 2007, diesel engines were required to meet these new standards for particulate matter (PM), with other standards to follow. Through a combination of advanced compression-ignition engine technology, development of exhaust aftertreatment systems, and reformulated fuels, stringent standards were introduced. Before the 2007 standards were put in place by the EPA, human health effects linked to diesel exhaust (DE) exposure had been associated with diesel-fuel solvent and combustion components. In earlier research, diesel engine exhaust components were, in turn, linked to increased mutagenicity in cultures of Salmonella typhimurium and mammalian cells (Tokiwa and Ohnishi 1986). In addition, DE was shown to increase both the incidence of tumors and the induction of 8-hydroxy-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) adducts in rodents (Ichinose et al. 1997) and total DNA adducts in rats (Bond et al. 1990). Furthermore, DE is composed of a complex mixture of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and particulates. One such PAH, 3-nitrobenzanthrone (3-NBA), is also found in urban air. 3-NBA has been observed to induce micronucleus formation in the DNA of human hepatoma cells (Lamy et al. 2004). The current study is part of the Advanced Collaborative Emissions Study (ACES), a multidisciplinary program carried out by the Health Effects Institute and the Coordinating Research Council. Its purpose was to determine whether recent improvements in the engineering of heavy-duty diesel engines reduce the toxicity associated with exposure to DE components. To this end, we evaluated potential genotoxicity and induction of oxidative stress in bioassays of serum and tissues from Wistar Han rats chronically exposed--for up to 24 months--to DE from a 2007-compliant diesel engine (new-technology diesel exhaust, or NTDE). Genotoxicity was measured as DNA strand breaks in lung tissue, using an alkaline-modified comet assay. As a correlate of possible DNA damage evaluated in the comet assay, concentrations of the free DNA adduct 8-OHdG were evaluated in serum by a competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The 8-OHdG fragment found in the serum is a specific biomarker for the repair of oxidative DNA damage. In addition, an assay for thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) was used to assess oxidative stress and damage in the form of lipid peroxidation in the hippocampus region of the brains of the DE-exposed animals. These endpoints were evaluated at 1, 3, 12, and 24 months of exposure to DE or to a control atmosphere (filtered air). At the concentrations of DE evaluated, there were no significant effects of exposure in male or female rats after 1, 3, 12, or 24 months in any measure of DNA damage in the comet assay (%DNA in tail, tail length, tail moment, or olive moment). The comparison of exposure groups versus control and the comparison of groups by sex for 1 and 3 months of exposure showed no significant differences in serum 8-OHdG concentrations (P > 0.05). The concentrations of 8-OHdG in all exposure groups at 3 months were higher than those in exposure groups at any other time point (P < 0.05). Looking at the levels of 8-OHdG in serum in the 12-month and 24-month groups, we saw a significant difference from control in the 12-month group at the mid and high levels (P < 0.05), as well as some other scattered changes. Sex differences were noted in the 12-month high-level group (P < 0.05). However, these differences did not follow an exposure-dependent pattern. All other comparisons were not significant (P > 0.05). Hippocampal concentrations of TBARs, measured as malondialdehyde (MDA), showed some small and scattered changes in groups exposed to different levels of DE and at different time points, but we did not consider these to be exposure-related. We concluded that exposure to DE in these rats did not produce any significant increase in oxidative damage to lipids or damage to DNA in the form of strand breaks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-105; discussion 141-71
JournalResearch report (Health Effects Institute)
Issue number184
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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