Retene (RET) is the most abundant polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) released upon burning of cellulose, although it is not considered as one of the priority PAHs and is not included for risk assessments by the US Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA). There are only a few studies concerning the toxic effects of RET. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first one to examine whether RET, in an environmental concentration, plays a crucial role in the induction of oxidative stress in A549 lung cell line, and its consequence as such as mutagenicity and cell death. Our results revealed that RET was able to significantly decrease cell viability only at 72 h of exposure, increase oxidative stress, mitochondrial membrane potential and mitochondrial contents, leading an increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Mutagenic activity was not detected in Salmonella strains, suggesting that RET does not induce base-pair substitution (TA100), frameshift (TA98 and TA97a) and transition/transversion (TA102) mutations. However, exposure to RET led to a significant increase in micronuclei (MN), nucleoplasmic bridges (NPBs), and nuclear buds (NBUDs) frequency, as well as cell death, mainly due to necrosis. Taken together, the results of our study provide new evidence suggesting that RET promotes oxidative stress, contributes to the processes of genomic instability, and favors necrosis. Thus, we highlight the importance of including RET in routine environmental analyses in the future as a potential risk factor involved in complex diseases and carcinogenesis.
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