DNA damage in buccal epithelial cells from individuals chronically exposed to arsenic via drinking water in Inner Mongolia, China
The purpose of this pilot study was to assess DNA damage in buccal cells from individuals chronically exposed to arsenic via drinking water in Ba Men, Inner Mongolia. Buccal cells were collected from 19 Ba Men residents exposed to arsenic at 527.5 +/- 23.7 micrograms/L (mean +/- SEM) and 13 controls exposed to arsenic at 4.4 +/- 1.0 micrograms/L. DNA fragmentation by the DNA ladder and TUNEL assay were used to detect DNA damage in buccal cells. In the DNA ladder assay, 89% (17/19) of the arsenic-exposed group showed < 100 bp DNA fragments, in contrast to 15% (2/13) of the controls (p < 0.0001). For the TUNEL assay, the mean frequencies of positive cells were higher in the exposed group (15.1%) than in the controls (2.0%) (p < 0.0001). This study showed that high arsenic exposure via drinking water resulted in DNA damage and DNA fragmentation in buccal cells thus may be an appropriate biomarker for assessing chronic effects of arsenic in humans. A study investigating DNA fragmentation from the individuals with low levels of arsenic exposure in this population is in progress.