Mutational signatures associated with exposure to carcinogenic microplastic compounds bisphenol A and styrene oxide.
NAR Cancer. 2021 Mar ;3(1):zcab004. Epub 2021 Mar 1. PMID: 33718875
Microplastic pollutants in oceans and food chains are concerning to public health. Common plasticizing compounds Bisphenol-A (BPA) and Styrene-7,8-Oxide (SO) are now labeled as carcinogens. We show that BPA and SO cause deoxyribonucleic acid damage and mutagenesis in human cells, and analyze the genome-wide point mutation and genomic rearrangement patterns associated with BPA and SO exposure. A subset of the single- and doublet base substitutions shows mutagenesis near or at guanine, consistent with these compounds' preferences to form guanosine adducts. Presence of other mutational signatures suggest additional mutagenesis probably due to complex effects of BPA and SO on diverse cellular processes. Analyzing data for 19 cancer cohorts, we find that tumors of digestive and urinary organs show relatively high similarity in mutational profiles, and the burden of such mutations increases with age. Even within the same cancer type, proportions of corresponding mutational patterns vary among the cohorts from different countries, as does the amount of microplastic waste in ocean waters. BPA and SO are relatively mild mutagens, and other environmental agents can also potentially generate similar, complex mutational patterns in cancer genomes. Nonetheless, our findings call for systematic evaluation of public health consequences of microplastic exposure worldwide.