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Keywords:

  • clastogens;
  • cytotoxicity;
  • metal toxicity;
  • metal pollution

Abstract

An analysis of the available data on the clastogenic effects of metals and their compounds on higher organisms indicates some general trends.

Following chronic exposure to subtoxic doses, a decrease in mitotic frequency and an increase in the number of chromosomal abnormalities are observed. These effects are usually directly proportional to the dose applied and the duration of treatment within the threshold limits. Recovery after acute treatment is inversely related to the dosage.

The ultimate expression of the effects depends on certain factors, including the mode and vehicle of administration; the form administered; the test system used; the rate of detoxification, distribution, and retention in the different tissues; and interaction with foreign and endogenous substances as well as the mode of action with the biological macromolecules.

In mammals, the clastogenic activity of the metals within each vertical group of the periodic table is directly proportional to the increase in atomic weight, electropositivity, and solubility of the metallic cations in water and lipids, except for Li and Ba. This pattern of inherent cytotoxicity increases with successive periods in the horizontal level. It is enhanced by the formation of covalent and coordinate covalent complexes by heavy metals with the biological macromolecules.

In plants, the solubility of the metals in water is of much greater importance. The degree of dissociation of metallic salts and the rate of absorption affect significantly the frequency of chromosomal aberrations.

In assessing the effects of environmental metal pollution, the presence of other metals and toxic chemicals and the level of nutrition should be taken into account, since in nature, metals occur in combination and these factors modify the cytotoxic effects to a significant extent.