Causes of genome instability: The effect of low dose chemical exposures in modern society

Daniel Desaulniers, Fahd Al-Mulla, Rabeah Al-Temaimi, Amedeo Amedei, Amaya Azqueta, William H. Bisson, Dustin Brown, Gunnar Brunborg, Amelia K. Charles, Tao Chen, Annamaria Colacci, Firouz Darroudi, Stefano Forte, Laetitia Gonzalez, Roslida A. Hamid, Lisbeth E. Knudsen, Luc Leyns, Adela Lopez De Cerain Salsamendi, Lorenzo Memeo, Chiara MondelloCarmel Mothersill, Ann Karin Olsen, Sofia Pavanello, Jayadev Raju, Emilio Rojas, Rabindra Roy, Elizabeth Ryan, Patricia Ostrosky-Wegman, Hosni K. Salem, Ivana Scovassi, Neetu Singh, Monica Vaccari, Frederik J. Van Schooten, Mahara Valverde, Jordan Woodrick, Luoping Zhang, Nik Van Larebeke, Micheline Kirsch-Volders, Andrew R. Collins, Sabine A.S. Langie, Gudrun Koppen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


Genome instability is a prerequisite for the development of cancer. It occurs when genome maintenance systems fail to safeguard the genome's integrity, whether as a consequence of inherited defects or induced via exposure to environmental agents (chemicals, biological agents and radiation). Thus, genome instability can be defined as an enhanced tendency for the genome to acquire mutations; ranging from changes to the nucleotide sequence to chromosomal gain, rearrangements or loss. This review raises the hypothesis that in addition to known human carcinogens, exposure to low dose of other chemicals present in our modern society could contribute to carcinogenesis by indirectly affecting genome stability. The selected chemicals with their mechanisms of action proposed to indirectly contribute to genome instability are: heavy metals (DNA repair, epigenetic modification, DNA damage signaling, telomere length), acrylamide (DNA repair, chromosome segregation), bisphenol A (epigenetic modification, DNA damage signaling, mitochondrial function, chromosome segregation), benomyl (chromosome segregation), quinones (epigenetic modification) and nano-sized particles (epigenetic pathways, mitochondrial function, chromosome segregation, telomere length). The purpose of this review is to describe the crucial aspects of genome instability, to outline the ways in which environmental chemicals can affect this cancer hallmark and to identify candidate chemicals for further study. The overall aim is to make scientists aware of the increasing need to unravel the underlying mechanisms via which chemicals at low doses can induce genome instability and thus promote carcinogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S61-S88
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


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