Relationships between cytokine (IL-6 and TGF-β1) gene polymorphisms and chromosomal damage in hospital workers

Cytokine gene polymorphisms have been found to be associated with a pre-disposition to a variety of diseases, including inflammatory and cancer diseases. The present study evaluated the influence of six cytokine gene polymorphisms on the level of genomic damage observed in peripheral blood lymphocytes from hospital pathologists chronically exposed to low doses of different xenobiotics. Lymphocytes from 50 pathologists and 50 control subjects were recruited and analyzed in Sister Chromatid Exchange (SCE) and Chromosomal Aberrations (CA) assays. The frequencies of six cytokine gene polymorphisms and their relationships with the cytogenetic damage levels were also evaluated. The results indicated that significant differences were found between pathologists and controls in terms of SCE frequency (p < 0.001) and RI values (p < 0.001), as well as in terms of CA and cells with aberrations (p < 0.001). No associations were found between all analyzed cytokine gene polymorphisms and CA frequency in both pathologists and control groups. Vice versa, among pathologists, homozygote individuals for the IL-6 G allele showed a significantly (p = 0.017) lower frequency of SCE with respect to heterozygote subjects. Similarly, for TGFβ1 codon 10 locus, homozygote for T allele and heterozygote TC subjects showed a significantly (p = 0.021) lower frequency of SCE with respect to homozygote CC individuals. Among controls, no significant differences were found in the frequency of SCE between genotypes at all loci. Based on these results, we speculate that high circulating levels of a pro-inflammatory cytokine like IL-6 and lower levels of the immunosuppressant cytokine TGFβ1 could be associated directly with a longer duration and/or greater intensity of inflammatory processes, and indirectly with significantly higher levels of genomic damage.