U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Mutation Research 742 (2012) 54– 60; doi:10.1016/j.mrgentox.2011.11.013


Dinitrotoluene (DNT) is a nitroaromatic explosive that exists as six isomers; two major isomers (2,4- and 2,6-DNT) and four minor isomers (2,3-, 2,5-, 3,4-, and 3,5-DNT). DNT has been found in soil, surface water, and groundwater near ammunition production plants. The major isomers of DNT are classified as “likely to cause cancer in humans.” In vitro studies have provided conflicting data regarding the genotoxicity of the minor isomers. Studies indicate that metabolism in the gut and liver are necessary to convert DNT to genotoxic compounds. As such, in the present study the genotoxicity of isomers of DNT was assessed using two in vivo genotoxicity assays. The Comet assay was used to detect DNA damage in liver cells from male Sprague-Dawley rats following oral exposure (14-day) to individual isomers of DNT. The micronucleus assay was conducted using flow cytometric analysis to detect chromosomal damage in peripheral blood. Treatment with 2,3-, 3,4-, 2,4-, 2,5- and 3,5-DNT did not induce DNA damage in liver cells or increase the frequency of micronucleated reticulocytes (MN-RET) in peripheral blood at the doses tested. Treatment with 2,6-DNT induced DNA damage in liver tissue at all doses tested, but did not increase the frequency of micronucleated reticulocytes (MN-RET) in peripheral blood. Thus, 2,4-DNT and the minor isomers were not genotoxic under these test conditions, while 2,6-DNT was genotoxic in the target tissue, the liver. These results support previous research which indicated that the hepatocarcinogenicity of technical grade DNT (TG-DNT) could be attributed to the 2,6-DNT isomer.