Cytogenetic evaluation and DNA interaction studies of the food colorants amaranth, erythrosine and tartrazine

Panagiotis Mpountoukas, Anastasia Pantazaki, Efterpi Kostareli, Pantelitsa Christodoulou, Dimitra Kareli, Stamatia Poliliou, Costas Mourelatos, Vasso Lambropoulou, Theodore Lialiaris

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192 Citations (Scopus)


Food coloring agents, amaranth, erythrosine and tartrazine have been tested at 0.02-8mM in human peripheral blood cells in vitro, in order to investigate their genotoxic, cytotoxic and cytostatic potential. Amaranth at the highest concentration (8mM) demonstrates high genotoxicity, cytostaticity and cytotoxicity. The frequency of SCEs/cell was increased 1.7 times over the control level. Additionally, erythrosine at 8, 4 and 2mM shows a high cytotoxicity and cytostaticity. Finally, tartrazine seems to be toxic at 8 and 4mM. No signs of genotoxicity were observed. Reversely, tartrazine showed cytotoxicity at 1 and 2mM. Furthermore, spectroscopic titration studies for the interaction of these food additives with DNA showed that these dyes bind to calf thymus DNA and distinct isosbestic points are observed clearly suggesting binding of the dyes to DNA. Additionally DNA electrophoretic mobility experiments showed that these colorants are obviously capable for strong binding to linear dsDNA causing its degradation. PCR amplification of all DNA fragments (which previously were pre-treated with three different concentrations of the colorants, extracted from agarose gel after separation and then purified), seems to be attenuated with a manner dye concentration-dependent reflecting in a delayed electrophoretic mobility due to the possible binding of some molecules of the dyes. Evaluation of the data and curves were obtained after quantitative and qualitative analysis of the lanes of the gel by an analyzer computer program. Our results indicate that these food colorants had a toxic potential to human lymphocytes in vitro and it seems that they bind directly to DNA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2934-44
Number of pages11
JournalFood & Chemical Toxicology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


  • Adult
  • Amaranth Dye/chemistry
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cell Proliferation/drug effects
  • DNA/chemistry
  • DNA Damage
  • Electrophoresis, Agar Gel
  • Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay
  • Erythrosine/chemistry
  • Food Coloring Agents/chemistry
  • Humans
  • Mitotic Index
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Mutagens/chemistry
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sister Chromatid Exchange/drug effects
  • Tartrazine/chemistry


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