Particulate air pollution and inheritable mutations in mice: Possible health effects?
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Extract: In a recent study we showed that the particulate fraction of air pollution was capable of increasing the rate at which DNA changes were passed to the next generation (germline mutations) in mice. Here we briefly describe the research that brought us to this experiment, followed by a description of the recent study and its implications. Herring gulls (Larus argentatus) are fish-eating water birds that breed throughout the Laurentian Great Lakes and in many other parts of the Northern Hemisphere. In the early to mid 1990's, these birds were used as a sentinel wildlife species in our studies of germline mutations as a function of distance from integrated steel mills. The assay used involved comparison of the DNA profiles (minisatellite DNA -- non-coding sequences) of gull offspring with those of their parents, and identification of novel bands, or mutations, in the DNA profiles of offspring.