Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 87, Issue 11, pp 1999–2012 | Cite as

Characterization of formaldehyde’s genotoxic mode of action by gene expression analysis in TK6 cells

  • Stefanie Kuehner
  • Karlheinz Holzmann
  • Günter SpeitEmail author
Genotoxicity and Carcinogenicity


Gene expression analysis has been established as a tool for the characterization of genotoxic mechanisms of chemical mutagens. It has been suggested that expression analysis is capable of distinguishing compounds that cause DNA damage from those that interfere with mitotic spindle function. Formaldehyde (FA) is known to be a DNA-reactive substance which mainly induces chromosomal damage in cultured mammalian cells. However, there has been concern that FA might also induce leukemia-specific aneuploidies, although recent cytogenetic studies excluded a relevant aneugenic potential of FA. We now investigated whether gene expression profiling can be used as a molecular tool to further characterize FA’s genotoxic mode of action and to differentiate between clastogenic and aneugenic activity. TK6 cells were exposed to FA for 4 and 24 h, and changes in gene expression were analyzed using a whole-genome human microarray. Results were compared to the expression profiles of two DNA-damaging clastogens (methyl methanesulfonate and ethyl methanesulfonate) and two aneugens (colcemid and vincristine). The genotoxic activity of FA, MMS and EMS under these conditions was confirmed by comet assay experiments. The gene expression profiles indicated that clastogens and aneugens induce discriminable gene expression patterns. Exposure of TK6 cells to FA led to a discrete gene expression pattern, and all toxicogenomics analyses revealed a closer relationship of FA with clastogens than with aneugens.


Formaldehyde Mutagenic potential Clastogen Aneugen Microarray analysis 



The financial support by the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) is gratefully acknowledged.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the views in this paper are those of the authors they have no conflict of interest in presenting their opinions.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefanie Kuehner
    • 1
  • Karlheinz Holzmann
    • 2
  • Günter Speit
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Institut für HumangenetikUniversität UlmUlmGermany
  2. 2.Microarray-Core FacilityUniversitätsklinikum UlmUlmGermany
  3. 3.Institut für HumangenetikUniversität UlmUlmGermany

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