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Open AccessArticle

Epigenetic and Transcriptional Modifications in Repetitive Elements in Petrol Station Workers Exposed to Benzene and MTBE

1
EPIGET, Epidemiology, Epigenetics and Toxicology Lab, Department of Clinical Sciences and Community Health, Università Degli Studi di Milano, via San Barnaba 8, 20122 Milan, Italy
2
Department of Life Sciences, University of Parma, 43124 Parma, Italy
3
Present address: San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy (SR-TIGET), 20132 Milan, Italy
4
Occupational Medicine Unit, Fondazione Cà Granda, IRCCS Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, 20122 Milan, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(4), 735; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15040735
Received: 28 February 2018 / Revised: 30 March 2018 / Accepted: 8 April 2018 / Published: 12 April 2018
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Abstract

Benzene, a known human carcinogen, and methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity, are fuel-related pollutants. This study investigated the effect of these chemicals on epigenetic and transcriptional alterations in DNA repetitive elements. In 89 petrol station workers and 90 non-occupationally exposed subjects the transcriptional activity of retrotransposons (LINE-1, Alu), the methylation on repeated-element DNA, and of H3K9 histone, were investigated in peripheral blood lymphocytes. Median work shift exposure to benzene and MTBE was 59 and 408 µg/m3 in petrol station workers, and 4 and 3.5 µg/m3, in controls. Urinary benzene (BEN-U), S-phenylmercapturic acid, and MTBE were significantly higher in workers than in controls, while trans,trans-muconic acid (tt-MA) was comparable between the two groups. Increased BEN-U was associated with increased Alu-Y and Alu-J expression; moreover, increased tt-MA was associated with increased Alu-Y and Alu-J and LINE-1 (L1)-5′UTR expression. Among repetitive element methylation, only L1-Pa5 was hypomethylated in petrol station workers compared to controls. While L1-Ta and Alu-YD6 methylation was not associated with benzene exposure, a negative association with urinary MTBE was observed. The methylation status of histone H3K9 was not associated with either benzene or MTBE exposure. Overall, these findings only partially support previous observations linking benzene exposure with global DNA hypomethylation. View Full-Text
Keywords: benzene; petrol station workers; transcriptional activity of retrotransposons; methylation of DNA; methylation of histones benzene; petrol station workers; transcriptional activity of retrotransposons; methylation of DNA; methylation of histones
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Rota, F.; Conti, A.; Campo, L.; Favero, C.; Cantone, L.; Motta, V.; Polledri, E.; Mercadante, R.; Dieci, G.; Bollati, V.; Fustinoni, S. Epigenetic and Transcriptional Modifications in Repetitive Elements in Petrol Station Workers Exposed to Benzene and MTBE. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 735.

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