Comparing the clastogenic potential of atrazine with caffeine using Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells

A Lane Rayburn, Jerry Bouma, Carrie A. Northcott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The agronomically important herbicide atrazine has been reported to cause damage to animal chromosomes at levels of atrazine found contaminating drinking water supplies. While documenting potential chromosome damage is important it is equally important to compare the damage with the potential consequences of compounds readily found in our food and water supply. In this study atrazine and caffeine, a ubiquitous food additive, were compared at equal levels and at real exposure levels for their ability to damage animals chromosomes in cell culture. Nuclei and chromosomes from treated and control cells were analyzed by flow cytometry. At extremely low levels, atrazine was found to be a more potent clastogen. Caffeine had no effect on the chromosomes at the lower levels. Both chemicals were genotoxic at the potential exposure levels with caffeine being more disruptive than atrazine. Atrazine appears to be a more potent damaging agent than caffeine at similar levels of exposure; however, the levels of caffeine one is exposed to during everyday life appears to be more damaging on the endpoints analyzed in this study than the levels of atrazine found contaminating water supplies. The advantages and limitations of whole cell clasotgenicity are also presented in light of these results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-78
Number of pages10
JournalToxicology Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 8 2001


  • Chromosomes
  • Flow cytometery
  • Flow karyotype
  • Genotoxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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