Phenacetin was assayed in a battery of five short-term tests. (1) In a DNA-repair test using various Escherichia coli strains, the drug was not directly genotoxic nor did it induce nonreparable DNA damage in the presence of rat liver S9 fractions, while it was weakly active following activation with hamster liver S9. (2) In the Ames reversion test (strains TA97, TA98, TA100, and TA102 of Salmonella typhimurium, phenacetin reverted only TA100, and only in the presence of hamster liver S9. Mutagenicity was related to the concentration both of the drug and of the above metabolic system. There was no activation with hamster kidney S9, uninduced chicken liver S9, or with a variety of liver S9 preparations from rats treated with enzyme inducers (Aroclor 1254, phenobarbital, or 3-methylcholanthrene) and/or glutathione depletors (diethyl maleate or buthionine sulfoximine). Hamster liver S9 compared favorably to rat and even more to chicken liver S9 fractions also in activating various promutagens [3-amino-1-methyl-SH-pyrido (4,3-b)-indole, 2-aminofluorene, aflatoxin B1, benzo[a]py-rene, and benzo[a]pyrene-trans-7,8-diol] and in decreasing the mutagenicity of direct-acting compounds (4-nitroquinoline N-oxide and sodium dichromate). (3) Phenacetin was borderline positive in a forward mutation test (6-thioguanine resistance) in V79 cells, only in the presence of hamster liver S9, and gave negative results in the presence of rat liver S9 or without any metabolic system. (4) Following in vivo treatment, the alkaline elution assay did not reveal any DNA fragmentation in bone-marrow cells of ip-treated mice or in liver cells of rats treated by gavage. Apparent DNA damage was instead observed in the kidneys of rats receiving the drug by gavage or in the liver following ip administration. However, the effect was prevented (liver) or reduced (kidney) by preliminary perfusion of the organs, which discards (liver) or makes uncertain (kidney) the hypothesis of a true in vivo DNA damage. (5) Phenacetin ip induced in mouse bone-marrow cells a poor yet statistically significant increase in sister chromatid exchanges.
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