Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 179–187 | Cite as

Metabolic reduction of chromium, as related to its carcinogenic properties

  • Silvio De Flora
  • Domizio Serra
  • Anna Camoirano
  • Patrizia Zanacchi
Section 3 Bioavailability, Metabolism, and Distribution


At variance with Cr(III), Cr(VI) compounds easily cross cell membranes and exert genotoxic effects. No metabolic oxidation of Cr(III) could be detected, whereas Cr(VI) reduction was observed in the presence of body fluids and subcellular fractions of various tissues from several animal species. The differential efficiency of this process may account for the selection of target tissues in Cr(VI) carcinogenesis. For instance, reduction by saliva and gastric juice may explain a lack of carcinogenicity by the oral route; reduction inside erythrocytes may explain a lack of carcinogenicity at a distance from administration sites; reduction by the epithelial-lining fluid of terminal airways and by alveolar macrophages may be consistent with the occurrence of thresholds in lung carcinogenesis. Liver preparations displayed the top efficiency in reducing Cr(VI), whereas skeletal muscle, i.e., a typical target in experimental Cr(VI) carcinogenesis, had no detectable activity. Bronchial tree and peripheral lung parenchyma preparations from almost 100 individuals reduced Cr(VI) to a variable extent. The efficiency of lung parenchyma and of isolated alveolar macrophages was enhanced in cigarette smokers. In rats, Cr(VI) reduction by lung preparations was significantly stimulated by the repeated i.t. instillation of Cr(VI) itself. Among the electron donors (chiefly GSH) and enzymatic mechanisms responsible for the intracellular Cr(VI) reduction, such as cytochrome P-450 reductase, glutathione redactase, and aldehyde oxidase, an important role can be ascribed to cytosolic DT diaphorase activity, usually catalyzing a 2-electron reduction.

Index Entries

Lack of oxidation of chromium in the organism selective reduction of chromium in different tissues mechanisms and consequences of chromium reduction in the blood mechanisms and consequences of chromium reduction in the digestive tract mechanisms and consequences of chromium reduction in the respiratory tract biochemical mechanisms of chromium reduction role of DT diaphorase in chromium reduction autoinducibility of the pulmonary metabolism of chromium influence of smoking habits on the pulmonary metabolism of chromium occurrence of threshold phenomena in chromium carcinogenesis 


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Copyright information

© The Humana Press Inc. 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Silvio De Flora
    • 1
  • Domizio Serra
    • 1
  • Anna Camoirano
    • 1
  • Patrizia Zanacchi
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Hygiene and Preventive MedicineUniversity of GenoaGenoaItaly

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