The environmental impact of metal complexes such as organotin(IV) compounds is of increasing concern. Genotoxic effects of organotin(IV) compounds (0.01 μg/ml, 0.1 μg/ml or 1.0 μg/ml) were measured using the alkaline single-cell gel electrophoresis (comet) assay to measure DNA single-strand breaks (SSBs) and the cytokinesis-block micronucleus (CBMN) assay to determine micronucleus formation. Biochemical-cell signatures were also ascertained using attenuated total reflection Fourier-transform infrared (ATR-FTIR) spectroscopy. In the comet assay, organotin(IV) carboxylates induced significantly-elevated levels of DNA SSBs. Elevated micronucleus-forming activities were also observed. Following interrogation using ATR-FTIR spectroscopy, infrared spectra in the biomolecular range (900 cm-1 – 1800 cm-1) derived from organotin-treated MCF-7 cells exhibited clear alterations in their biochemical-cell fingerprint compared to control-cell populations following exposures as low as 0.0001 μg/ml. Mono-, di- or tri-organotin(IV) carboxylates (0.1 μg/ml, 1.0 μg/ml or 10.0 μg/ml) were markedly cytotoxic as determined by the clonogenic assay following treatment of MCF-7 cells with ≥ 1.0 μg/ml. Our results demonstrate that ATR-FTIR spectroscopy can be applied to detect molecular alterations induced by organotin(IV) compounds at sub-cytotoxic and sub-genotoxic concentrations. This biophysical approach points to a novel means of assessing risk associated with environmental contaminants
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