Mutagenic Metals

The biochemical mechanism by which metals are mutagenic is by their effects on DNA. The main pathway shared by iron, copper, chromium, vanadium and cobalt is by redox-cycling reactions and mercury, cadmium and nickel by depleting glutathione and bonding to sulfihydryl groups (1). Free iron, in particular, can cause oxidative damage on DNA that can cause cancer in the spleen (2). Arsenic, in particular binds directly to critical thiols producing DNA damage (1). Cadmium interferes with and inhibits DNA repair (3;4).

Reference List
1. Valko M, Morris H, Cronin MT. Metals, toxicity and oxidative stress. Curr Med Chem 2005;12:1161-208.
2. Wu X, Kannan S, Ramanujam VM, Khan MF. Iron release and oxidative DNA damage in splenic toxicity of aniline. J Toxicol Environ Health A 2005;68:657-66.
3. Slebos RJ, Li M, Evjen AN, Coffa J, Shyr Y, Yarbrough WG. Mutagenic effect of cadmium on tetranucleotide repeats in human cells. Mutat Res 2006;602:92-9.
4. Giaginis C, Gatzidou E, Theocharis S. DNA repair systems as targets of cadmium toxicity. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 2006;213:282-90.

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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