All the experimental work in this paper was carried out at the JRC-Ispra.
Metabolic fate of ultratrace levels of GeCl4 in the rat and in vitro studies on its basal cytotoxicity and carcinogenic potential in Balb/3T3 and HaCaT cell lines†
Article first published online: 15 SEP 2009
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Journal of Applied Toxicology
Volume 30, Issue 1, pages 34–41, January 2010
How to Cite
Sabbioni, E., Fortaner, S., Bosisio, S., Farina, M., Del Torchio, R., Edel, J. and Fischbach, M. (2010), Metabolic fate of ultratrace levels of GeCl4 in the rat and in vitro studies on its basal cytotoxicity and carcinogenic potential in Balb/3T3 and HaCaT cell lines. J. Appl. Toxicol., 30: 34–41. doi: 10.1002/jat.1469
- Issue published online: 16 DEC 2009
- Article first published online: 15 SEP 2009
- Manuscript Accepted: 2 JUL 2009
- Manuscript Revised: 1 JUL 2009
- Manuscript Received: 5 NOV 2008
- metabolic patterns;
- carcinogenic potential;
The use of germanium (Ge) and the possibility of exposure to trace and ultratrace amounts of this element is increasing. Germanium is widely used in the industrial field as a semiconductor and also as a dietary supplement, an elixir to ‘promote health and cure disease’ (e.g. cancer and AIDS). More recently, germanium nanoparticles, ranging in size from 60 to 80 nm, have been developed as a potential spleen imaging agent. Like other metal-based nanoparticles used in nanomedicine, Ge nanoparticles may release trace and ultratrace amounts of Ge ions when injected. The metabolic fate and toxicity of these ions still needs to be evaluated. In this study the metabolic fate of a cationic tetravalent Ge species was studied in vivo by injecting rats i.p. with ultratrace amounts of Ge (80 ng kg−1) as [68Ge]GeCl4. The cytotoxicity and carcinogenic potential was assessed in vitro using immortalised human skin keratinocytes and mouse fibroblasts (HaCaT and Balb/c 3T3 cell lines, respectively). At 24 h post-exposure Ge was poorly retained in rat tissues (kidney, liver, intestine, femur, spleen and the heart were the organs with the highest Ge concentration). In the blood, Ge was rapidly cleared, being almost equally distributed between plasma and red blood cells. The excretion was mainly via the urine. The hepatic and renal intracellular distribution showed the highest recovery of Ge in the cytosol and the nuclear fractions. Chromatographic separation and ultrafiltration experiments on kidney and liver cytosols showed that the bulk of Ge was associated with low molecular weight components, representing a ‘mobile pool’ of the element in the body. However, a significant part of the element was able to interact with biological macromolecules which could be responsible for the presence of Ge in the liver and kidney after 7 days. The in vitro experiments confirmed the low degree of cytotoxicity of GeCl4 both in HaCaT and Balb/3T3. The latter model was more sensitive to the toxic effects induced by Ge as shown by a colony forming efficiency (CFE) greater than 70% at 700 µm of exposure. At the highest exposure concentration tested (700 µm) GeCl4 failed to induce morphological neoplastic transformation of the cells, suggesting for the first time that a cationic form of Ge ions has no carcinogenic potential. This supports the results of the only study reported in mice, treated orally long-term to an anionic species of Ge such as sodium germanate (Kanisawa and Schroeder, 1967). Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.