Toxic and genotoxic effects of trivalent and hexavalent chromium - A review
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During the last years, the emission of heavy metals to the environment has increased, causing a severe negative impact to the ecosystems and seriously compromising human health due to their mutagenic potential. Tri- (III) and hexavalent (VI) chromium (Cr) constitute the oxidative states of the metal chromium that are active in living organisms. These two oxidation states of the chromium differ with regards to their cellular effects, mainly due to the different abilities they possess in relation to easy of transport through biological membranes. Cr VI is transported into the cell through transference channels of endogenous anions that are isostructural and isoelectronical to Cr VI, such as SO 4 -2 and HPO 4 -2. On the other hand, Cr III is unable to diffuse through the cell membrane. Its existence inside the cells is generally due to the reduction of Cr VI, the endocytosis, or the absortion by the cells via phagocytosis. Cr III acts directly on the DNA molecule, while Cr VI reacts little with this molecule. In the ecosystem, however, Cr VI is more dangerous since this is the form that presents greater reactivity with biological membranes, crossing them and being easily incorporated into the cell. In the cell it is biotransformed to Cr III, a potentially mutagenic molecule. In vivo and in vitro studies have shown that organisms exposed to Cr VI present greater induction to a variety of damages to the DNA molecule. Among the damages induced by Cr, changes in the structure of the DNA molecule have been reported, with breaks of the major chain and base oxidation. In the organisms, these alterations generate chromosomal aberrations, micronucleus formation, sister chromatid exchanges, and errors in DNA synthesis.