The importance of the in vitro genotoxicity evaluation of food components: The selenium

Vanessa Valdiglesias, Josefina Méndez, Eduardo Pásaro, Blanca Laffon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Genotoxicity assays are used to assess the genetic damage associated with theexposure to different substances. When humans are directly exposed to a potentiallygenotoxic substance, as with food, there is an imperative need to evaluate diverse typesof DNA alterations in order to thoroughly determine the health hazard. This evaluationrequires the use of a battery of in vivo and in vitro tests. In vivo studies are useful but arealso very expensive, require a high number of animals and raise important ethicalconcern. Moreover their results cannot always be extrapolated to humans. In these casesthe use of in vitro assays becomes relevant and necessary.Oligoelements present at low levels in food, as selenium, frequently give rise todifficulties for regulators and food businesses to evaluate the potential risk ofgenotoxicity. In this concern, the use of in vitro assays gains importance since it allowscontrolling the features of the exposure and employing human cell lines that can providea more real view of its effects on human organism.Selenium is an essential human micronutrient that participates in important cellprocesses and exerts different effects on the organism according to its chemical form andconcentration. In the last decades, many studies have been performed to characterizethese effects. Their findings indicate that selenium is a key player in cellular metabolism,is an essential component of antioxidant enzymes, and has important roles in thyroidmetabolism, human fertility, and many other vital functions. Nevertheless, data also show that an excess of selenium in the diet can be toxic and a deficiency can result in chronic,and sometimes fatal, failure. Because of that, though selenium is probably the mostwidely investigated of all the oligonutrients, it continues to be highly controversial andeven health authorities have at times been confused.This chapter makes a review of the in vitro genotoxicity tests applied to evaluate thepotential selenium-induced chromosomal alterations, mutagenicity, oxidative damageand influence on repair ability, among others, using different chemical forms andconcentrations. Results from this kind of studies are expected to provide a suitable basisfor the regulation of its use in nutrition and clinic.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGenotoxicity: Evaluation, Testing and Prediction
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages40
ISBN (Print)9781607417149
Publication statusPublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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