Eggs of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus were used in testing the effect of benzo(a)pyrene and 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene on dividing and differentiating cells.

In spite of the nonspecific labeling pattern of tritiated hydrocarbons to cell constituents, treatment of fertilized eggs and pretreatments of both the gametes before fertilization have shown that the action of benzo(a)pyrene differs from that of 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene. The latter substance showed a specific damaging action on mesenchyme cells, which appeared to have lost their capacity to organize the skeleton. The former substance apparently did not interfere with the normal function of the cell.


This work was carried out at Stazione Zoologica, Naples, and was supported by a research grant from Italian Ministry of Public Health to the “Fondazione Senatore Pascale” and from a contribution of the Italian Ministry of Public Education to the Stazione Zoologica of Naples for the benefit of E. de A.

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