The environmental pollutant 7H-dibenzo(c,g)carbazole (DBC) has been shown to be a potent carcinogen in various mouse tissues, but displays an unusual degree of hepatocarcinogenicity. We have previously reported that in accord with this activity, mouse liver is the target organ for DBC-DNA binding, with total levels being up to 2700 times greater than in extrahepatic tissues after s.c. administration. To elaborate on this finding, we have directly compared the tissue distribution of DNA damage by three diverse aromatic carcinogens, DBC, benzo(a)pyrene (BP), and 2-acetylaminofluorene (AAF). Following a single topical, p.o., or s.c. administration of 80 µmol/kg of test compound to male BALB/c mice, a 32P-postlabeling assay showed the total number of DBC adducts in liver DNA to be 11–138 times that in kidney, lung, or skin DNA. The degree of hepatic adduction varied as a function of the route of administration, with the highest occurring after topical application and the lowest after s.c. injection. The tissue preference for AAF and BP adducts varied with the route of administration and was much less than for DBC adducts, except that topical application of BP gave DNA adduct levels in skin that were 91–218 times greater than in other tissues. For a given tissue and route of administration, DNA adduction by DBC was 1.7- to 950-fold greater than that by BP and AAF, except in skin where the level of DNA adducts from BP was 3 to 4 times that from DBC. We conclude that (a) DBC exhibits an exceptional and unique preference for liver DNA adduction after different routes of administration; (b) DBC is more potent overall than BP or AAF in causing tissue DNA damage; and (c) for each of the three carcinogens, the route of exposure is a much less important factor than the nature of the carcinogen in determining the tissue distribution of covalent DNA damage.

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Supported by USPHS Grant R37 CA32157 awarded by the National Cancer Institute and by a Du Pont Occupational and Environmental Health grant.

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