Acrylamide is an animal carcinogen and probable human carcinogen present in appreciable amounts in heated carbohydrate-rich foodstuffs. It is also a germ cell mutagen, inducing dominant lethal mutations and heritable chromosomal translocations in postmeiotic sperm of treated mice. Acrylamide's affinity for male germ cells has sometimes been overlooked in assessing its toxicity and defining human health risks. Previous investigations of acrylamide's germ cell activity in mice showed stronger effects after repeated administration of low doses compared with a single high dose, suggesting the possible involvement of a stable metabolite. A key oxidative metabolite of acrylamide is the epoxide glycidamide, generated by cytochrome P4502E1 (CYP2E1). To explore the role of CYP2E1 metabolism in the germ cell mutagenicity of acrylamide, CYP2E1-null and wild-type male mice were treated by intraperitoneal injection with 0, 12.5, 25, or 50 mg acrylamide (5 ml saline)−1 kg−1 day−1 for 5 consecutive days. At defined times after exposure, males were mated to untreated B6C3F1 females. Females were killed in late gestation and uterine contents were examined. Dose-related increases in resorption moles (chromosomally aberrant embryos) and decreases in the numbers of pregnant females and the proportion of living fetuses were seen in females mated to acrylamide-treated wild-type mice. No changes in any fertility parameters were seen in females mated to acrylamide-treated CYP2E1-null mice. Our results constitute the first unequivocal demonstration that acrylamide-induced germ cell mutations in male mice require CYP2E1-mediated epoxidation of acrylamide. Thus, CYP2E1 polymorphisms in human populations, resulting in variable enzyme metabolic activities, may produce differential susceptibilities to acrylamide toxicities.
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