Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) is thought to be an occupational risk factor for airway carcinogenesis where exposure to AFB1-laden grain dusts is common. Since activation of AFB1 is catalyzed by cytochromes P-450 associated with the smooth endoplasmic reticulum, we compared the response to AFB1 in cultured tracheal epithelium from species with abundant (rabbit and hamster) and scarce (rat and monkey) distributions of smooth endoplasmic reticulum in nonciliated tracheal epithelial cells. Explants from each species, incubated in medium containing 0.5 µm [14C]-AFB1 for selected intervals up to 24 h, were compared on the basis of binding of [14C]-AFB1 to tracheal DNA, amount and type of AFB1 metabolites in the medium, ultrastructurally determined population densities of epithelial cells, and distribution of bound material in epithelium as determined by autoradiographic grain densities. Cultures derived from rabbits were most active in metabolic conversion and formation of AFB1-DNA adducts, followed by those from hamsters, rats, and monkeys. Rabbit tracheal epithelium formed a significantly greater proportion of glutathione conjugates, while that from hamster formed a greater amount of AFB1-dihydrodiol, compared to rats and monkeys. The monkey formed significantly greater proportions of aflatoxin Q1 and the rabbit more aflatoxicol, compared to the other species. There was selective degeneration and accumulation of labeled material in nonciliated cells in both rabbits and hamsters but not in rats or monkeys. Explants from rabbit tracheas were much more susceptible to cytotoxic injury and had higher autoradiographic grain densities than explants from hamsters. We conclude that the presence of smooth endoplasmic reticulum-containing nonciliated epithelial cells is qualitatively associated with the activation and toxicity of AFB1.


This work was supported by PHS Grant ES04813 from the NIEHS. Published as journal paper 3882 from the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station.

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