Formation of micronuclei and of clastogenic factor(s) in patients receiving therapeutic doses of iodine-131

Michela Ballardin, Federica Gemignani, Lisa Bodei, Giuliano Mariani, Marco Ferdeghini, Anna Maria Rossi, Lucia Migliore, Roberto Barale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The micronucleus (MN) assay in peripheral blood lymphocytes was applied to assess the genotoxic potential of a single dose of iodine-131 (131I) given to six patients for ablation of thyroid remnants after total thyroidectomy. Lymphocytes were taken at various times after 131I therapy (from 2 to 180 days), and evaluated for the presence of MN in the binucleated cells identified after blocking cytokynesis with cytochalasin B. The presence of ultrafiltered, low-molecular weight, clastogenic factor(s) (CFs) in the plasma of 11 patient undergoing 131I therapy was also sequentially assessed. A significantly increased MN frequency was observed in lymphocytes of patients as soon as the first sampling time (2 days after 131I therapy), multifactor analysis of variance (MANOVA): P <0.0001, peaking at day 7 at almost four-fold the spontaneous frequency observed in the pre-therapy samples. MN frequency slowly declined thereafter, reaching the baseline levels at the 180-day time point. When tested against peripheral blood lymphocytes from a healthy donor, the ultrafiltered CFs obtained from 11 patient's plasma induced a significant increase of the MN frequency peaking at day 15. Thereafter, a slow MN frequency decline was observed and the baseline frequency was reached after 180 days. A significant relationship was found between the MN frequency observed in lymphocytes of patients after 131I therapy and the genotoxic CFs activity present in their plasma (P = 0.019). These findings suggest that 131I induces a significant increase in the MN frequency of peripheral blood lymphocytes, as well as the formation of transferable CFs which persist for at least 60 days after administration of the radionuclide. The presence of these CFs might be responsible of chromosome aberrations often observed in cultured lymphocytes following X-ray exposure. The possibility of reducing the genotoxic activity of radionuclide therapy by chemoprevention of CFs with antioxidant drugs remains to be explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-85
Number of pages9
JournalMutation Research - Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 15 2002


  • Clastogenic factor(s)
  • Differentiated thyroid cancer
  • Genotoxicity
  • Iodine-131 therapy
  • Micronuclei

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Genetics


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