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Gene expression response in peripheral blood cells of petroleum workers exposed to sub-ppm benzene levels

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International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health ; Volume 15. p. 1–18. 2018

Jørgensen, Katarina Mariann; Færgestad, Ellen Mosleth; Liland, Kristian Hovde; Hopf, Nancy Brenna; Holdhus, Rita; Stavrum, Anne-Kristin; Gjertsen, Bjørn Tore; Kirkeleit, Jorunn

Altered gene expression in pathways relevant to leukaemogenesis, as well as reduced levels of circulating lymphocytes, have been reported in workers that were exposed to benzene concentrations below 1 ppm. In this study, we analysed whole blood global gene expression patterns in a worker cohort with altered levels of T cells and immunoglobulins IgM and IgA at three time points; pre-shift, post-shift (after three days), and post-recovery (12 hours later). Eight benzene exposed tank workers performing maintenance work in crude oil cargo tanks with a mean benzene exposure of 0.3 ppm (range 0.1–0.5 ppm) and five referents considered to be unexposed were examined by gene expression arrays. By using our data as independent validation, we reanalysed selected genes that were reported to be altered from previous studies of workers being exposed to sub-ppm benzene levels Four out of six genes previously proposed as marker genes in chronically exposed workers separated benzene exposed workers from unexposed referents (CLEC5, ACSL1, PRG2, IFNB1). Even better separation of benzene exposed workers and referents was observed for short-term exposure for genes in the Jak-STAT pathway, particularly elevated expression of IL6 and reduced expression of IL19.

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