The mutagenic activity of dimethyl terephthalate (DMtP) was evaluated in the micronucleus test in mice. A clear clastogenic effect was obtained at all concentrations studied (0.2-1.0 mmole/kg body weight). The maximum number of micronuclei occurred 24 h after a single intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection. The time-course for the DMtP-induced micronuclei was in agreement with the available data on the rapid excretion of phthalates from the mammalian body. The dose-effect response was best described by a linear equation with a logarithmic component. The emergence of the latter term was related to the toxic effects of DMtP at higher concentrations on bone marrow erythropoietic function. A comparison of the effects induced by DMtP and by methyl nitrosourea indicated that DMtP cannot be considered a strong mutagenic compound. We have compared the sensitivity of the mouse micronucleus test and that of Drosophila dominant-lethal test by contrasting the effects obtained at similar exposure doses. This comparison leads to the conclusion that the micronucleus test is capable of responding to far lower phthalate concentrations than the Drosophila dominant-lethal mutation test. Our results testify to the ability of dimethyl terephthalate to cause genotoxic damages in vivo in both somatic and germinal cells of higher organisms. Thus, the chemical in question may be of potential genetic hazard to man.
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