Mutagenicity monitoring following battlefield exposures: Longitudinal study of HPRT mutations in gulf war i veterans exposed to depleted uranium

Richard J. Albertini, Pamela M. Vacek, Elizabeth W. Carter, Janice A. Nicklas, Katherine S. Squibb, Patricia W. Gucer, Susan M. Engelhardt, Melissa A. McDiarmid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


A total of 70 military Veterans have been monitored for HPRT T-cell mutations in five separate studies at 2-year intervals over an 8-year period. Systemic depleted uranium (DU) levels were measured at the time of each study by determining urinary uranium (uU) excretion. Each HPRT study included 30-40 Veterans, several with retained DU-containing shrapnel. Forty-nine Veterans were evaluated in multiple studies, including 14 who were in all five studies. This permitted a characterization of the HPRT mutation assay over time to assess the effects of age, smoking and non-selected cloning efficiencies, as well as the inter- and intra-individual variability across time points. Molecular analyses identified the HPRT mutation and T-cell receptor (TCR) gene rearrangement in 1,377 mutant isolates. An unexpected finding was that in vivo clones of HPRT mutant T-cells were present in some Veterans, and could persist over several years of the study. The calculated HPRT mutant frequencies (MFs) were repeatedly elevated in replicate studies in three outlier Veterans with elevated urinary uranium excretion levels. However, these three outlier Veterans also harbored large and persistent in vivo HPRT mutant T-cell clones, each of which was represented by a single founder mutation. Correction for in vivo clonality allowed calculation of HPRT T-cell mutation frequencies (MutFs). Despite earlier reports of DU associated increases in HPRT MFs in some Veterans, the results presented here demonstrate that HPRT mutations are not increased by systemic DU exposure. Additional battlefield exposures were also evaluated for associations with HPRT mutations and none were found.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)581-593
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental and Molecular Mutagenesis
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomarkers of genotoxicity
  • Depleted uranium
  • HPRT
  • Mutation
  • Urine uranium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Epidemiology
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • General Medicine


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