Polychlorinated biphenyls are a group of industrial chemicals that are widely distributed in the environment. Since these compounds occur as mixtures, studies of their possible interactive effects are important. In order to determine whether an interaction of 2,5,2′,5′-tetrachlorobiphenyl (TCB) with 3,4,3′,4′-TCB occurs during multistage hepatocarcinogenesis in vivo, like that previously observed in lymphocytes in vitro (L. M. Sargent et al., Mutat. Res., 224: 79–88, 1989), we exposed rats to a single initiating dose of diethylnitrosamine (DEN), 10 mg/kg after a 70% partial hepatectomy, and subsequently to 0.1 ppm 3,4,3′,4′-TCB and/or 10 ppm 2,5,2′,5′-TCB in the diet for 1 year. Administration of each of the TCBs alone after DEN initiation resulted in a low incidence of chromosomal damage in hepatocytes; but when the two were given together after DEN initiation, there was a more than additive effect on this parameter at both 7 and 12 months which was highly significant. Administration of the TCBs alone or in combination in the absence of DEN initiation also resulted in chromosomal damage, approaching that seen in livers of animals initiated with DEN when sacrificed at 12 months. In animals receiving 0.05% phenobarbital for a 12-month period after initiation with DEN, a significant degree of chromosomal breakage and fragment formation occurred both in hepatocytes expressing the ectoenzyme γ-glutamyltranspeptidase (GGT) and in those that were GGT negative. However, the GGT-negative cells showed a significantly lower incidence of chromosomal damage than the GGT-positive hepatocytes. Exposure to phenobarbital for 7 months after DEN initiation resulted in no significant chromosomal damage in hepatocytes, whether GGT positive or GGT negative. Some degree of specificity in chromosomal alterations was seen in hepatocytes of animals initiated with DEN and promoted either with a combination of TCBs or with phenobarbital. The most frequent alterations seen were a trisomy of chromosome 1 or of its long arm and a monosomy of chromosome 3 or its short arm. Some chromosome 7 aberrations were also seen. The highest frequency of specific aberrations occurred in hepatocytes from rats that also bore hepatocellular carcinomas, suggestive of the hypothesis that genes involved in the development of hepatic carcinoma may reside in chromosome 1 and/or 3 of the rat.

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The experiments described in this paper were supported in part by grants from the National Cancer Institute (CA07175, CA22484, CA45700) and by a training grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (EH-82-12) (L. S.).

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