We previously showed that farmers in Bolivia are exposed to many pesticides, some at elevated levels, and that this was associated with increased risk of genetic damage. To improve the understanding of possible mixture effects, the cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of pesticides were studied in vitro using human liver HepG2 cells. The studied pesticides were 2,4-D, chlorpyrifos, cypermethrin, glyphosate, methamidophos, paraquat, profenofos, and tebuconazole. Three mixtures (U1, U2, and U3) were based on profiles of urinary pesticide metabolites and one mixture on the most frequently used pesticides (S1). The results showed that paraquat and methamidophos were the most cytotoxic pesticides (EC50 ≤0.3 mM). Paraquat, chlorpyrifos, tebuconazole, and the U1, U2, and U3 mixtures, which contained a large proportion of either chlorpyrifos or tebuconazole, significantly increased intracellular ROS levels. Most pesticides activated DNA damage signaling through proteins Chk1 and H2AX. Strongest responses were elicited by paraquat, profenofos, chlorpyrifos, cypermethrin, and the S1 mixture, which contained 25% paraquat. Comet assay revealed significant increases of DNA damage in response to paraquat, cypermethrin, and U2 and S1 mixtures, which contained high levels of cypermethrin and paraquat, respectively. In summary, we showed that the tested pesticides, alone or in mixtures, in general induced oxidative stress and that most pesticides, and especially paraquat and cypermethrin, were genotoxic in HepG2 cells. We could also show that mixtures dominated by these two pesticides displayed a marked genotoxic potency, which agreed with our previous population studies.
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© 2021 The Authors. Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Environmental Mutagen Society.