Most normal human fibroblasts grown in culture do not metabolize promutagens/procarcinogens. Thus screening assays employing normal human fibroblasts have only been successful for direct-acting chemical mutagens and various radiations. In this report we describe a mutation assay (HGPRT locus) employing a normal human embryonic skin fibroblast and a rat-liver homogenate (S9) mixture. 3 model promutagens, benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P), 3-methylcholanthrene (3MC), and dimethylnitrosamine (DMN) have been utilized in these studies. In addition to discussing conditions for optimizing the response of this assay, our results indicate that at constant amount of S9 protein concentration, there exists a linear correlation between mutagenicity and dose. At 50% survival, the mutant frequencies induced by B[a]P and 3MC (5 μg/ml) are 60 and 30 times the background mutant frequency, respectively. Similarly, at 50% survival, DMN (5 mg/ml) induced 6-TGr mutant frequencies are 25-fold over the background frequency. The increase in cytotoxicity resulting from exposure of cells to these 'activated' chemicals is also a linear dose response. At high S9 concentrations a deactivation or detoxification phenomenon occurs. However, the mutagenic efficiency of S9-activated chemicals when plotted as the number of induced mutations versus log survival is unaffected by the deactivating capacity of S9 proteins. This study demonstrates a quantitative mutation assay using an early passage human culture with an exogenous rat-liver musomal preparation providing activating enzymes.
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