Evaluation of the toxic effects of four anti-cancer drugs in plant bioassays and its potency for screening in the context of waste water reuse for irrigation

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  • Carlos Alexandre Lutterbeck
  • Deivid Ismael Kern
  • Ênio Leandro Machado
  • Klaus Kümmerer

Anti-cancer drugs are compounds that are of high environmental relevance because of their lack of specific mode of action. They can be extremely harmful to living organisms even at low concentrations. The present study evaluated the toxic effects of four frequently used anti-cancer drugs against plant seedlings, namely Cyclophosphamide (CP), Methotrexate (MTX), 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) and Imatinib (IM). The phytotoxicity experiments were performed with Lactuca sativa seedlings whereas cytotoxicity, genotoxicity and mutagenicity investigations were performed with the well-established Allium cepa assays. MTX was the most phytotoxic compound, followed by 5-FU, CP and IM. Significant differences in the Mitotic Indexes (MI) were observed in three of the studied compounds (MTX, 5-FU and CP), indicating potential cytotoxic activity of these substances. Chromosome aberrations were registered in cells that were exposed to 5-FU, CP and IM. All the four compounds caused the formation of micronucleated cells indicating mutagenic potential. Besides, the assays performed with MTX samples presented a high number of cell apoptosis (cell death). Although it is unlikely that the pharmaceuticals concentrations measured in the environment could cause lethal effects in plants, the obtained results indicate that these compounds may affect the growth and normal development of these plants. So, both tests can constitute important tools for a fast screening of environmental contamination e.g. in the context of the reuse of treated wastewater and biosolids of agricultural purpose.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-410
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 01.09.2015

    Research areas

  • Anti-cancer drugs, Cytotoxicity, Genotoxicity, Mutagenicity, Phytotoxicity
  • Chemistry