Bone marrow chromosomes of thirty specimens of the Japanese grass vole, Microtus montebelli (2n=30), which had been caught on and near an illegal dumpsite at the Aomori-Iwate prefectural boundary, were analyzed and compared with those of fifteen grass voles from non-polluted areas as part of an effort to assess genotoxic influences on grass voles in the dumpsite area. Fifty metaphases per specimen were examined with particular attention to numerical and structural aberrations. Two specimens from the dumpsite had 2n=31, which was confirmed by G-banding analysis to have been caused by centric fission of M6 homologs, while control specimens had no such abnormality. In specimens from the polluted area, the mean number of chromosomal aberrations (breaks and/or gaps) per 50 metaphases per specimen was 2.57±0.41, which was significantly higher than that (0.80±0.14; P<0.01) in control specimens. Chromosomal aberrations were randomly distributed on chromosomes, with frequencies being proportional to the relative lengths of chromosomes. Our findings suggest that grass voles at and around the dumpsite have been seriously damaged at the chromosomal level and, moreover, that M. montebelli might be useful as an indicator species for genotoxic assessment of below-ground pollution by industrial waste at illegal dumpsites.
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