UMass Dartmouth Professor D. Boerth Presented Research In Washington, D.C.

Dr. Boerth presented the results from his study on the effects of pesticides on DNA of plants and humans to the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society

Dr. Donald Boerth of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UMass Dartmouth recently returned from the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington, DC where he presented two papers on the effects of pesticides on DNA. The findings presented were the results of a study funded by a SEED research grant from the U. S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Research, Education, and Extension Service.

Boerth's research has demonstrated that a variety of crop plants are susceptible to genetic and oxidative damage from treatment with a number of pesticides. His studies point to genotoxic risk to agricultural plants, as well as humans and animals, from chemical agents used in crop production. DNA damage results from binding of these chemicals with DNA molecules. Reactions of DNA bases with pesticides or their metabolites alter the structure of the DNA and prevent proper replication. This degradation of genetic material leads to inferior development of vine, leaf, roots, or fruit and ultimately to inferior quality or yield of the agricultural product. Similar effects in animals and humans leads to mutations and is a possible source of cancer. This study focuses on the degree and nature of the risk to DNA from pesticides either through direct interaction with the pesticide molecules or their metabolites or through indirect DNA damage from the products of oxidative stress to the plant. 

Biological experiments, which are being conducted by Boerth and his research associates, involve pesticide treatment of various crop plants, isolation of plant DNA, and assaying of DNA modifications. Boerth also uses computer simulations to predict which pesticides are likely to be more genotoxic and how they are likely to modify the DNA. This molecular modeling will determine the nature and extent of adduct formation of pesticides with DNA bases. This will permit screening of pesticides to assess risk/benefit to the quantity and quality of crops. The modeling can be applied to the design of new pesticides which pose less threat to crop plants, as well as to humans and the environment. 

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