Exposure to genotoxic compounds alters in vitro cellular VOC excretion

R. R. R. Fijten, A. Smolinska, Q. Shi, D. M. Pachen, J. W. Dallinga, A. W. Boots, F. J. van Schooten*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Genotoxic carcinogens significantly damage cells and tissues by targeting macromolecules such as proteins and DNA, but their mechanisms of action and effects on human health are diverse. Consequently, determining the amount of exposure to a carcinogen and its cellular effects is essential, yet difficult. The aim of this manuscript was to investigate the potential of detecting alterations in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) profiles in the in vitro headspace of pulmonary cells after exposure to the genotoxic carcinogens cisplatin and benzo[a] pyrene using two different sampling setups. A prototypeset-up was used for the cisplatin exposure, whereas a modified set-up was utilized for the benzo[a] pyrene exposure. Both carcinogens were added to the cell medium for 24 h. The headspace in the culture flask was sampled to measure theVOCcontent using gas chromatographytime- of-flight-mass spectrometry. Eight cisplatin-specific VOCs and six benzo[a] pyrene-specific VOCs were discriminatory between treated and non-treated cells. Since the in vivo biological effects of both genotoxic compounds are well-defined, the origin of the identified VOCs could potentially be traced back to common cellular processes including cell cycle pathways, DNAdamage and repair. These results indicate that exposing lung cells to genotoxins alters headspaceVOCprofiles, suggesting that it might be possible to monitorVOCchanges in vivo to study drug efficacy or exposure to different pollutants. In conclusion, this study emphasizes the innovative potential of in vitro VOCs experiments to determine their in vivo applicability and discover their endogenous origin.

Original languageEnglish
Article number027101
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Breath Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • VOCs
  • volatile organic compounds
  • genotoxic
  • GC-MS
  • exhaled breath
  • in vitro


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